Bush fire

Photo courtesy of Rio Verde Fire District

After more than a week of full closure due to the Bush Fire the main route between Fountain Hills and Payson was reopened Tuesday afternoon.

According to ADOT SR87 (Beeline Highway) reopened for southbound traffic around noon. The highway department announced that northbound reopened with restrictions about 1:30 p.m.

One northbound lane of SR87 remains closed between mileposts 223 and 236, near the junction with State Route 188, for use by firefighters and for repairs. ADOT urges motorists to budget extra time and drive with patience.

SR188, between SR87 and Roosevelt Lake at SR88 also has reopened, as has SR88 between Roosevelt Lake and Apache Lake. The long-term closure of SR88 from east of Tortilla Flat to Apache Lake remains in effect.

Also, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon that evacuation orders for Apache Lake and Sunflower had been lifted.

Residents living within the evacuated communities from Sunflower and Apache Lake are being allowed to return to these areas.

Fire personnel have determined that conditions are favorable for the safe return of citizens, according to MCSO.

A SET designation will remain in effect for residents of Sunflower to be prepared for another possible evacuation.

“(I) would like to extend … thanks to all those affected by the evacuation for their patience and cooperation,” Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said. “The evacuation order was in place for the protection of not only residents but those responsible for fire containment and security.”

Penzone also noted that there were no homes lost or personnel injured.

Motorists are urged to use caution as you enter these areas. Fire personnel are still working, and smoke may be present.

Also, a third party contractor is handling the barricades for ADOT possibly resulting in some delay in releasing portions of the highways.

The Bush Fire began near the Beeline and Bush Highway on Saturday, June 13. As of Tuesday morning, June 23, it had burned an estimated 187,000 acres and is about 61 percent contained.