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Morning Rundown: Wednesday, June 30

Associated Press | Matt York


It’s Wednesday, June 30. 


Eight years ago today, 19 firefighters died while working to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire. State flags will fly at half-staff today to commemorate the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew; the Yavapai County Courthouse bell will ring 19 times to pay tribute to each man who died. Speakers are scheduled to gather at Yarnell Memorial Park. 


The U.S. Senate passed a recent resolution introduced by Ariz. Sen. Mark Kelly and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema honoring the firefighters.


“We owe them and all the crews currently fighting wildfires across our state a great debt of gratitude for their service to Arizona,” Kelly said of the crew. 


A spokesperson for Kelly says the resolution was presented Tuesday at the Eric Marsh Foundation — an organization created to support firefighters and affected family members. Marsh served as the crew’s superintendent; at 43, he was among those who died.


Listen: KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius profiled the 2018 opening of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center in Prescott.


Rafael Fire: Containment Grows, “Go” Orders Lifted

The Rafael Fire has surpassed 78,000 acres and has reached 72% containment according to data from the Bureau of Land Management as crews report improvement.


Credit Rafael Fire Information

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office says evacuation orders have been lifted in the Sycamore Canyon area, which has been downgraded to “set” status. National forest remains closed to the public, with the exception of private property owners. Burnout operations have been successful in quelling the fire, CCSO says.

Flagstaff-area communities west of I-17 and south of I-40 remain in “ready” status, along with Garland Prairie North and South. 


Delta Variant Confirmed On Navajo Nation 

The first case of the COVID-19 Delta variant has been confirmed in a northern region of the Navajo Nation, President Jonathan Nez announced.


Nez says the variant was reported Friday and noted concerns over increasing hospitalization rates in neighboring Utah. 


More than 117,000 people have been fully vaccinated as of Friday. Vaccines remain available this week at the Chinle Comprehensive healthcare facility, at a drive-thru clinic at the Pinon Health Center, and the Tsaile Health Center, among other facilities.


Deadline Looms As Nez Mulls Reopening

Meanwhile, Nez faces a deadline to approve or veto legislation in reopening businesses and roads to Navajo citizens and visitors. 


The Navajo Nation council council has voted unanimously to reopen in-person instruction and Diné-owned roads and businesses to both Navajo citizens and visitors. The council says the legislation was placed on President Jonathan Nez’s desk Monday; Nez has a total of ten days to approve or veto the new measure. Nez previously vetoed legislation from the council that would have reopened tribal parks at 100%, prompting the council to approve altered legislation during a special session on Friday.


The first case of the COVID-19 Delta variant was reported last week on the Navajo Nation, according to President Jonathan Nez.


Backbone Fire: Pine And Strawberry Downgraded To “Ready” Status

Further progress continues on the Backbone Fire west of Pine and Strawberry; the lightning-caused fire is burning at more than 40,000 acres with 76% containment, per the BLM.


State Route 260 has reopened in both directions according to the department of transportation. The Gila County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday downgraded the Pine and Strawberry from “set” to “ready” status.


Credit Yavapai County Sheriff's Office
Smoke from the Rafael Fire.

Smoke Impacts Subside As Fire Containment Improves

Light and periodically moderate smoke impacts are forecast in northern Arizona today as crews gain containment of the Rafael and Backbone fires. The Department of Environmental Quality forecasts potential brief bouts of moderate smoke in Flagstaff and Sedona. Light smoke is possible today in Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Prescott and Winslow.

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