After several days of burning through brush, the fire in the Gila River bed burned itself out over the weekend.
“It’s pretty much put out, we’re just mopping up,” Assistant Safford Fire Department Chief John McGaughey said Sunday. “We let it do its own work. It wasn’t threatening anything so we let it burn and with the absence of land it pretty much burned itself out.”
A six-man crew spent Sunday felling trees that were still on fire and using water on hot spots, McGaughey said. They’ll continue to monitor it to make sure it doesn’t flare up again.
On Wednesday afternoon a Thatcher man was burning scrap wood and other construction materials near Porter Lane when the fire got away from him and entered the river bed, authorities said.
Firefighters eventually suppressed the fire, but on Saturday Thatcher Fire Chief Mike Payne said the fire flared up again and crossed over into the Safford Fire Department’s jurisdiction.
“They were trying to do a back burn and I think it got away from them,” Payne said around 6 p.m.
There was talk of trying to do another back burn further east of the fire later this evening, but it wasn’t possible at 6 p.m.
“There’s no way we can stop it right now. It’s just huge big flames and we can’t get in front of it or we’ll be burned up. By the time it passes through it’s already burned everything,” Payne said.
On Thursday Payne had estimated the fire would smolder for a week before it is completely out, but didn’t rule out the possibility of the wind kicking up the flames again.
The fire remains under investigation and a report was expected within two or three days, sheriff’s officials said Thursday.
Criminal charges are possible.