Winds A Challenge In Fighting Arizona Wildfire

Winds A Challenge In Fighting Arizona Wildfire

21 June 2010

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USA — Fire crews battling a wildfire northeast of Flagstaff that quickly grew to more than 13 square miles were working Monday to protect homes in the fire’s path. Residents of several hundred homes remained under evacuation orders as the blaze moved within 500 yards of some of those homes, fire spokesman Eric Neitzel said Monday.

Firefighters worked feverishly overnight to build a containment line between forest land and the communities. They also were digging trenches, clearing out dry brush from around homes and spraying them down in hopes they will be spared, Neitzel said.

The combination of high temperatures, low humidity and high winds quickly pushed the fire that broke out Sunday, sending rolling clouds of black and gray smoke into what had been a clear blue sky. No structures have burned in the blaze, which was estimated at 8,849 acres early Monday, with zero containment.

Monday’s forecast called for sustained winds of up to 20 mph and gusts of more than 30 mph.

The fire also was abutting U.S. 89, a key route to Grand Canyon National Park, and officials remained concerned that high winds could cause the fire to leap across the roadway. U.S. 89 north of Flagstaff remained closed near the fire scene and motorists were being rerouted.

Eight air tankers have been aiding ground crews to suppress the blaze, but winds determine whether those air resources can go up. A federal management team took over direction of the firefighting effort Monday, a move that will expand access to resources.

The fire was the second that broke out in two days in the Flagstaff area, both of which spurred evacuations across this forested mountain city. Officials diverted resources from the first blaze reported Saturday in southeastern Flagstaff to the more erratic Schultz fire.

There have been no reports of serious injury in either blaze.

Fire officials have scheduled a meeting Monday evening to update residents on the suppression efforts.

A third fire burning 11 miles northeast of nearby Williams is 60 percent contained after burning 3,420 acres.

Other wildfires in the West also kept firefighters busy.

In Colorado, firefighters east of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado battled a fire burning amid high winds rugged terrain. The fire grew to 4,713 acres by Sunday. In New Mexico, fire officials continued to make progress on two wildfires, including a fire that charred more than 13,158 acres in inaccessible terrain in the Jemez Mountains.

A new wildfire burns Sunday at Schultz Pass between the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Flagstaff’s Timberline neighborhood was evacuated as wildfires spread.

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