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Firefighters Turn Corner On Rafael Fire With Nearly 50% Containment

Ryan Heinsius

Firefighters are reporting continued progress battling the 77,000-acre Rafael Fire near Flagstaff. They’ve contained nearly half the blaze ahead of predicted monsoon rains that could decrease wildfire danger in the area. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The lightning-caused Rafael Fire continues to burn in the rugged Sycamore Canyon Wilderness southwest of Flagstaff. Crews have aggressively worked to slow its advance toward nearby communities, which allowed evacuated residents in South Garland Prairie to return to their homes over the weekend.

"Really over the last two days we were able to conduct some burnout operations using ground resources and aerial resources and get some containment on that northern piece. We’re turning the corner and we’re feeling comfortable about some of the perimeter control there. So, a lot of work to do yet but we’re hopeful," says  Deputy Incident Commander Jeff Andrews.

Andrews says the fire is still very active on its southeast edge near Loy Canyon. Moderate smoke could impact areas to the southwest of the fire, but it’s likely to diminish throughout the week.

A burned area emergency response team is already assessing the severity of the fire. Officials are concerned about possible flooding in parts of Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Camp Verde with monsoon moisture in the forecast.

Much-needed rain is likely to help firefighters, but gusty outflow winds and lightning strikes could also hamper their efforts.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom 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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