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As Backbone Fire Grows, Flames Near Pine And Strawberry Communities

Coconino National Forest

The Backbone Fire that started near the Fossil Creek Wilderness last week has grown to more than 32,000 acres with no containment. It’s one of several lightning-caused wildfires to ignite in recent days amid hot, dry and windy conditions. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Backbone Fire continues to bear down on the communities of Pine and Strawberry, coming within only a few miles of homes. Residents remain under evacuation orders and firefighters are shoring up the northern and eastern edges in extremely challenging conditions.

"It grew 10,000 acres yesterday and about 12,000 acres the day before so yes, it’s a very active fire ... It’s pretty rugged and steep and there’s some real questionable terrain, so we’re just trying to find the best way to tackle it safely for all the resources," says Celeste Prescott, a spokesperson for the incident management team.

Managers on the Backbone Fire continue to use aircraft, but say with several other active fires in the area resources are being spread thin.

Meanwhile, dry thunderstorms have sparked more than a dozen wildfires in heavily forested areas north of Prescott. The Rafael Fire exploded in growth Sunday, spreading across the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness and creating a smoke plume visible throughout the region. Officials say heavy smoke could impact Sedona, Camp Verde, Payson and Heber along with other area communities as well as Interstate-17.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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