Flagstaff and Coconino County Declare Emergency as Museum Fire Grows

Jul 23, 2019

The Museum fire north of Flagstaff had grown up to 1800 acres as of Monday night.

Credit azgovernor.gov

Authorities say about two dozen homes are under an evacuation order and thousands of people have been told to prepare to leave the area.  They have been encouraged to pack supplies for three days.

A little rain fell at the fire scene Monday and weather forecasters say more rain is expected in the area later today, but there also could be some gusty winds and that could shift the direction of the blaze.

Meanwhile, Authorities are prohibiting mountain bikers, horseback riders, campers and hikers from using outdoor recreation areas near Mount Elden.

The city of Flagstaff and Coconino County declared emergencies because of the wildfire, freeing up money to respond to the blaze and allowing the local governments to seek financial assistance from the state. The fire started in an area where campfires always are banned because of the threat of wildfire, despite most of the national forest around Flagstaff being free of fire restrictions. Officials say the fire is human-caused but haven't determined the exact cause.

A top-tier federal management team took over the fire yesterday/Monday, bringing with it more resources to fight the blaze. At one point, more than a dozen aircraft, including four air tankers, were dropping fire retardant and water on the blaze that started Sunday morning and grew quickly. Ground crews worked to establish containment lines. Officials say the terrain is posing more of a challenge for the roughly 200 firefighters, including 10 Hotshot crews, than the weather.

Coconino National Forest officials said the fire is burning in Ponderosa pines and mixed conifer between Mount Elden and the San Francisco Peaks. Smoke billowing from the mountain and the red glow at night have been foreboding images for the community that saw a massive wildfire on the east side of San Francisco Peaks in 2010, when hundreds of homes were evacuated and a girl died in subsequent flooding — a concern after any wildfire scars the landscape.

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff said the amount of rain that will come this week is uncertain.