Racing against the wind, John Stephens packed up family heirlooms from his Pine Flats cabin, getting them safely out of the path of the raging Gladiator fire.
"They put us on a 24-hour evacuation and I told them I am going up I am going to grab as much stuff as I can," Stephens said.
However, the decades-old cabin is full of memories that cannot be moved to safety.
"Back in Pine Flats it looks like a war zone, just like back in the 70s. There was a fire back in the 70s and it scorched a lot of area back there," Stephens said.
Stephens showed CBS 5 News a picture of the original cabin burned by that 1970s fire and the cabin rebuilt by his family that could be facing the same fate.
"I'm praying that it does not hit us. I mean there are people up there that are optimistic that it will go around us, but I do not want to follow their optimism, with this wind it can travel," Stephens said.
Looking at the fire map down at the fire crews' base camp in Mayer, Stephens worries he may be right, especially as he watches the wind push the smoke right for Pine Flatts.
"It brought emotion to me going over the top and looking at the smoke coming into the valley right here. It is really sad," Stephens said.
Other small towns brace for impact
Fire officials say Turkey Creek was also being evacuated Friday evening due to fire growth to the northwest.
Evacuation orders already are in place for Crown King and Battle Flat to the north.
Authorities say two homes in Battle Flat are possibly in the line of fire, 44 in Pine Flats and less than a handful in Turkey Creek. Not all of the homes are occupied full-time.
Most of Crown King's 350 residents have left the mountain community.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Stubblefield said winds will die down substantially over the weekend and aren't expected to pick up again until Monday afternoon. A red flag warning across much of the state expired Friday evening.
Fire information spokeswoman Michelle Fidler said crews will use the opportunity to build and strengthen containment lines.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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