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Less Growth Reported On Rafael Fire, But Extreme Conditions Continue

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office

The Rafael Fire southwest of Flagstaff is now estimated at 24,000 acres with no containment yet reported. It’s one of several lightning-caused wildfires in the region fueled by drought-stressed vegetation and gusty winds. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Rafael Fire continues to burn in the rough and steep terrain of Sycamore and Tule canyons. Officials say the northern and eastern portions are some of the hottest and most active parts of the fire, but its growth was less explosive Monday as winds decreased.

"Relatively speaking, we did see some moderated fire behavior but ultimately were still seeing very extreme conditions and extreme fire behavior out there. We didn’t get that 20,000-acre increase in acreage thankfully," said Dolores Garcia, a spokesperson with the incident management team.

Garcia says firefighting resources are stretched thin as the Backbone Fire and several others continue to burn threatening area communities. Fire managers say they’re concerned about outflow winds and possible dry lightning in the coming days, and have ordered a Type 1 Incident Management Team to take command of the fire.

Thousands of residents in several communities in and near Flagstaff including Kachina Village and University Heights remain on notice for a possible evacuation.

In a rare move, the Coconino and Kaibab national forests will fully close to all visitors Wednesday morning because of extreme fire danger.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office has set up an emergency call center for the Rafael Fire at (928) 679-8647.

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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