Morning Fire Updates: Wednesday, June 23
It’s Wednesday, June 23. Chances of precipitation are on the rise today as fires burn statewide; the National Weather Service is predicting a 68% chance of rain in Flagstaff this afternoon, a 72% chance in Williams, and 61% chance in Sedona.
Rafael Fire Update: Slight Growth, No Containment
The Rafael Fire burning between Sedona and Paulden has reached 24,191 acres, according to a Wednesday morning update from the Prescott National Forest. PNF spokesperson Debbie Maneely says the fire has crossed Sycamore Canyon, moving east to Casner Mountain. A “set” status for potential evacuation remains effective for the following Flagstaff-area communities: Kachina Village, University Heights, Mountain Dell, Pine Del, Forest Highland, Woody Mountain Road south of I-40, Garland Prairie and Pine Aire Estates. Find updates for Coconino County evacuation statuses here.
Several ranches west of Sedona have been directed to evacuate, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.
County officials say a Type 1 Incident Management Team will aid the fire beginning tomorrow — providing more stringent containment efforts — and that two Blackhawk helicopters are on standby in Phoenix for additional aid.
Wyrick Fire Update: No Containment Reported
The lightning-caused Wyrick fire continues to burn at 7,101 acres with no containment reported. The blaze prompted evacuation orders for northern parts of Heber and Overgaard, along with Antelope Valley and Despain Ranch. Other nearby communities remain in ready and set status for potential evacuation. Find updates here.
Flagstaff Enters Stage 4 Fire Restrictions
The City of Flagstaff entered stage four fire restrictions this morning at 8:00 a.m. The new mandate includes the policies of stages one through three and adds a ban on using propane grills within the city. Open fires, along with smoking in public places, are prohibited.
The restriction will close sections of Flagstaff’s Urban Trail System that lead into the Coconino National Forest — including Mars Hill, Switzer Canyon, and the Arizona and Pipeline Trails.
Coconino County Enters Stage 3 Fire Restrictions
Coconino County entered stage three fire restrictions this morning at 8:00 a.m. The phase bans fireworks and campfires in most cases and applies to county public lands and private, unincorporated lands. The new phases of Coconino County and Flagstaff are the most restrictive of the year so far.
National Forests Close; Shelter Braces For Demand
The Kaibab National Forest and Coconino National Forest closed to the public this morning to mitigate wildfire risk. The indefinite closure can pose a problem for individuals who use the land for shelter. Executive Director Ross Altenbaugh of Flagstaff Shelter Services says the organization not only offers shelter, but can connect community members with other resources.
“What we’re really trying to communicate with the community is that there’s a response; and that shelter is our first line of defense to get people off the street and out of exposure and not having to think about going into the national forests,” Altenbaugh told KNAU Tuesday.
“They can get showers, and food, and bathrooms,” she adds, “we have laundry and day services, and connection to housing is fundamentally what we’re after.”
Altenbaugh says previous forest closures revealed a trend of families staying on the public lands.
Local law enforcement will be available to monitor the area in case others continue to occupy the space, according to Brady Smith of the Coconino National Forest.
Smoke Impacts Slated For Flagstaff, Sedona, Camp Verde
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is forecasting moderate to high smoke impacts in Flagstaff late Wednesday morning and afternoon. Camp Verde residents can expect light to moderate smoke impacts this morning; in Sedona, moderate to high impacts. ADEQ recommended minimizing outdoor activity for the areas. A full report can be found here.
Coconino County officials are recommending those without respiratory problems close windows and avoid using evaporative coolers when smoke is present. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those with respiratory problems should consult healthcare providers and avoid exposure. Paper and cloth masks are not designed to filter out smoke; the Environmental Protection Agency recommends P100 or N95 respirators marked by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The City of Flagstaff has released a list of locations where community members can pick up KN95 masks — including City Hall, the Aquaplex, and the East Flagstaff Community Library.