Coconino National Forest firefighters are attempting to contain a wildfire about 20 miles northwest of Flagstaff that’s forced the closure of Highway 180 to the Grand Canyon. Officials say the Slate Fire has grown to about 2,200 acres with no containment reported yet. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The wildfire was reported Monday near the top of Slate Mountain in steep terrain. The flames eventually crossed the highway and progressed toward private property at Cedar Ranch. About 150 firefighters, including four hot shot crews and a helicopter, are working to keep the fire within a 3,000-acre perimeter.
Forest spokesperson Randi Shaffer says crews have seen mostly low-to-moderate fire behavior but that could pick up as winds and temperatures rise.
"We’ll be seeing some increased fire activity because we’re moving out of those pine sources like timber and pine sources into the juniper and pinyon which burn a lot faster and hotter," Shaffer says.
Shaffer says Highway 180 will be closed indefinitely and officials don’t expect major smoke impacts from the fire. Several recreation sites are closed including the Slate Mountain trailheads, Red Mountain and a portion of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. The cause of the Slate Fire is under investigation.
Two other large wildfires are burning in the south-central portion of the state prompting Governor Doug Ducey to issue emergency declarations. It comes amid hot and dry weather in the region as the Southwest reels from extreme drought.