Fire crews monitor natural wildfire near Sedona

Fire crews monitor natural wildfire near Sedona

27 July 2015

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USA– Unseasonable rains during the usually arid, scorching months of the Arizona summer have allowed fire crews near Sedona to let a lightning fire take its natural course instead of fighting it more fiercely, officials said.

The Echo Fire was sparked July 17 about 10 miles northwest of Sedona and 16 miles southwest of Flagstaff near Turkey Butte, according to Brady Smith, a spokesman for the Coconino National Forest.

It had burned about 220 acres as of Monday afternoon, but Smith said he expected it to grow to about 2,000 acres before it extinguishes.

“It’s a wildfire that’s being used to completely multiple objectives within the ecosystem,” Smith said.

One of these objectives was to create a natural barrier to prevent wildfires from spreading from this area to Flagstaff in the future, he said. The Echo Fire was burning between the burned areas from two previous fires, meaning it would fill in the gap in this natural fire roadblock.

Since its start, firefighters have been monitoring and digging around the fire to control its perimeter, and would continue to do so through Thursday or Friday. Starting Tuesday, they would also use burnout efforts to further limit its growth, Smith said.

While Arizona’s wildfire season is considered by many to begin in mid-April and end with the July monsoons, Smith said this year’s unique rains have made the Echo Fire a welcome change because crews feel comfortable letting it run its natural course.

“Every year we go through tense stress of watching the skies for smoke,” he said. “It’s been a change of pace for us, a nice one.”

This year’s largest fires have been the Oak Tree Fire at about 2,000 acres north of Sonoita and the Kearny Fire at about 1,400 acres near the Gila River Bend. In comparison, the 2014 Slide Fire scorched 21,227 acres of the Coconino National Forest starting near Slide Rock State Park.

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