The Kaibab National Forest and Coconino National Forest closed to the public Wednesday morning because of extreme fire danger. But the closure presents a problem for people who are living on public lands and may be experiencing homelessness.
With the forest closures, Flagstaff Shelter Services is prepared for a possible increase in those needing assistance. Ross Altenbaugh is the Executive Director of the organization.
"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 says.
She adds that Shelter Services offers housing, showers, food, and laundry — along with other services. Catholic Charities, meanwhile, has an outreach team covering national forest land, informing individuals about the closures and available resources like Front Door.
Local law enforcement will patrol the closed areas to keep people out until fire danger subsides and the forests reopen. Coconino County officials say they’re preparing a plan for those who may be displaced by the closures.
To access a June 24 briefing on the Rafael Fire from the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, click here.