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Sun, Nov. 17

Tire fire closes stretch of I-17 near Cordes Jct.

CORDES JUNCTION –Officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) closed one section of Interstate 17 Wednesday after a malfunctioning tire on a U-Haul truck ignited a brush fire south of Cordes Junction. The blaze torched at least 25 acres of brush east of the highway and all the contents of the truck's cargo area.

Brian Marston, a DPS public information officer, said that at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, a man and his son were driving 26-foot, U-Haul moving truck south on Interstate 17. The right rear wheel malfunctioned, Marston said, "and it generated enough heat to catch fire."

"It ignited the contents of the U-Haul, which was everything this guy owns," Marston said. "All his furniture, household goods, everything."

As he should have, Marston said, the driver pulled over into the emergency lane; however, the fire ignited the dry brush alongside the highway.

DPS re-routed Phoenix-bound traffic onto Highway 69 and then to 89.

Mayer Fire Department (MFD), Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD), Prescott National Forest, State Land and Groom Creek fire departments also responded to the fire, which spread rapidly.

MFD Battalion Chief Mike McGhee said the fire was tough to fight because "we had some slopes there, and ravines."

Also, he said, "we had an access problem."

He said no other roads or trails lead to where the fire was, so firefighters had to fight the fire from Interstate 17.

McGhee added that CYFD "saves us all the time" by way of mutual aid.

CYFD Battalion Chief Don Vasquez said CYFD sent an engine, a battalion chief and a water tender to the fire.

He said the fire went up a little hill and down into a gulley, "and the wind was blowing so hard, it just kept going."

"When it got into steeper terrain," he said, "the engines couldn't get down there. The Forest Service and the State Land sent in hand crews."

A helicopter and three slurry bombers responded as well. DPS had to shut down both northbound lanes at Bloody Basin on Interstate 17 for a couple of minutes a couple of times to allow the aircraft to land. Personnel from the Arizona Department of Transportation and from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office helped with traffic control.

As of 8:20 p.m., Marston reported, the fire was under control. McGhee said the MFD turned the fire over to the Bureau of Land Management. That department's crews were to stay Wednesday night mopping up and making sure the fire was completely out, McGhee said.

"The conditions are extreme right now," McGhee said. "People don't think the desert highland burns, but it burns hot and fast. Use caution, be careful and call immediately."

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