Watermelon Fire in northern Arizona closes Interstate 17 in both directions


PHOENIX — A wildfire burning in northern Arizona closed Interstate 17 in both directions Sunday afternoon.

The highway shut down sometime after 3 p.m. with no estimated time for reopening, officials said in a press release.

The southbound lanes are closed at milepost 306, while the northbound lanes are closed at milepost 299, just north of State Route 179.

The blaze, called the Watermelon Fire, started around 2:50 p.m. near milepost 303, 20 miles south of Munds Park, from an RV that caught on fire and spread to Coconino National Forest land.

It grew to 25-30 acres before firefighters stopped forward progress on the fire.

About 70 personnel, including seven fire engines, a battalion, a Hotshow crew, two fire prevention patrol units and a fuels crew, are on scene fighting the blaze.

Drivers planning on using the I-17 are advised to allow for extra travel time.

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