May 22, 2014 12:51 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Truck catches fire, sparks 800 acre wildfire near Elgin

ELGIN - This year's fire season is off to a blazing start.

We're tracking several wildfires; the biggest is located in northern Arizona near Sedona. The Slide Fire has charred more than 4,000 acres so far.

Closer to home in Southern Arizona, there's a new fire near Elgin.

The Research Fire has burned 816 acres. The blaze broke out Wednesday afternoon after a vehicle caught fire. At last check the fire is 75 percent contained.

The challenge for firefighters is high winds, up to 30 miles per hour and dry brush, up to three feet tall.

Flames burned hot and fast Wednesday afternoon. Sharon Raymond was the first to see and report it.

"And I just happened to look out the window and I saw this big black plume of smoke and I thought oh no, not a fire," says Raymond. She's lived in Elgin nearly 20 years, has seen multiple fires and had many close calls.

"The first smoke I saw was very black, and then it started to go gray and then went straight down the valley here," she describes.

"The wind has been our problem all afternoon," says Chief Joseph De Wolf with the Sonoita Elgin Fire Department.

He says the fire sparked when a utility crew's truck caught fire and so did the grass underneath it. "A catalytic converter caught fire, the vehicle caught fire," says De Wolf.

No homes or buildings are in danger. But the Babacomari Ranch where the Research Fire is burning is home to cattle, wildlife and birds. Just last month the lightening sparked O'Donnell Fire charred 600 acres a quarter mile away.

Raymond is confident crews will work efficiently to put it out.

"It's just too bad when the fire comes everybody has to scramble, including all the animals," says Raymond.

Firefighting crews both federal and state are helping battle the flames.


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