Arizona's Sunflower Fire Continues Burning in Tonto National Forest (Photos)

Wildfire season started early in Arizona this year. There are currently four wildfires burning throughout the state, the largest of which is the Sunflower Fire, burning about 20 miles south of Payson in the Tonto National Forest.

Phoenix New Times freelance photographer Andrew Pielage made the trek north and sent back photos of the blaze.

According to Pielage, he could see plumes of smoke at least 50 miles away from where the fire was burning. The Sunflower Fire has consumed some 12,000 acres. At last report, it was just 7 percent contained.

Other fires burning in the state include the Gladiator Fire, which is threatening homes near Crown King. Hundreds of firefighters dispatched across the state also have to contend with the Elmwood Fire and Bull Flat Fire.

Here's the report from Pielage:

This wildfire is burning really hot; we saw over 12 separate open flames in the same mountain range. We headed up Mt. Ord just east of the wildfire over the Beeline highway to Payson. We figured the best way to get some quality images would be to go with the birds-eye-view.

Once up on our perch we knew right away this wildfire is not going away anytime soon. Flames were ripping through pine trees and juniper up the mountainside in many different locations within the range. We witnessed a continuous stream of fire personnel running up the old mining roads all night to get to the flames. Forecast calls for more heat and wind. Not good conditions to battle a wildfire.

Check out the rest of Pielage's photos of the Sunflower Fire on the following pages.

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