WILDFIRE

Sheriff’s office: Flagstaff-area wildfire burned 30 homes

Apr 22, 2022, 9:19 AM
flagstaff fire...
This Wednesday April 20, 2022, photo provided by Bill Wells shows his home on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., destroyed by a wildfire on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The wind-whipped wildfire has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes and animals. (Bill Wells via AP)
(Bill Wells via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Firefighters are bracing for the return of ferocious winds in the Southwest after a brief reprieve allowed them to attack flames from the air for the first time in days as a half-dozen large wildfires burn in Arizona and New Mexico.

Utah angle: Wildfire conditions could come early, worrying fire officials

The reprieve Thursday also finally allowed local authorities to enter rural neighborhoods near Flagstaff, Arizona, partially burned Tuesday by whipping flames 100 feet (30 meters) tall and determine that 30 homes were destroyed. Damage also included 24 properties with an unspecified number of destroyed outbuildings and a total of 109 properties were “impacted by the fire,” the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday night in a statement.

Authorities previously estimated that 30 structures were burned but had no breakdown of that figure.

Related: Southwest wildfires force evacuations, tighten resources

More than 500 firefighters were manning fire lines in the two states and more help was on the way Friday when the largest type of management team is scheduled to take command of resources at one of the biggest, most dangerous fires near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Spirits were lifted Thursday as helicopters were able to start dropping water on that blaze for the first time. It has burned more than 32 square miles (83 square kilometers), forced evacuations of 765 homes and destroyed at least two dozen structures since it broke out on Sunday.

Aerial attacks also resumed in northern New Mexico, where at least one airtanker was able to join the effort northeast of Santa Fe — something that’s likely to be impossible on Friday.

Sheriff’s deputies called for additional evacuations Thursday of scattered homes and closed some roads at a big fire burning in a rural area southeast of Taos, New Mexico, where no structure damage has been reported.

But fire officials and weather forecasters across the region warn the worst may be yet to come.

“There is high confidence that a widespread extreme and catastrophic fire weather event will occur on Friday,” Santa Fe National Forest officials said late Thursday.

“We are urging the public to stay vigilant, to continue to watch for expected changes in evacuation status and be prepared to leave in a rapid manner,” officials said.

Sustained winds of 30-50 mph (48-80 kph) are forecast there Friday morning, with gusts from 60-80 mph (97-129 kph) in the afternoon from the Gila Mountains up through the Rio Grande Valley to neighboring highlands.

The combination of the high winds, warmer temperatures and extremely dry conditions will make for an atmosphere that’s “pretty much on steroids,” said Scott Overpeck with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

“This is not typical,” he said, looking ahead to what he said could be potentially explosive fire growth on Friday. “This is really one of those days we need to be on our toes and we need to be ready.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Flagstaff’s Coconino County. The declaration clears the way for state funding for evacuations, shelter, repairs and other expenses. However, the money can’t be used to reimburse home and business owners for losses.

On Thursday, firefighters fanned out across blackened landscape in Arizona’s high country, digging into the ground to put out smoldering tree stumps and roots as helicopters buzzed overhead with buckets of water to drop on a massive blaze.

Wildfire has become a year-round threat in the West given changing conditions that include earlier snowmelt and rain coming later in the fall, scientist have said. The problems are exacerbated by decades of fire suppression and poor forest management along with a more than 20-year megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.

At a fire that’s consumed about 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) of timber and brush and forced evacuations near Prescott, Arizona, Forest Service officials reported the blaze continues to burn “in continuous thick, dry, dead and down fuels in very rugged terrain.”

“Erratic winds and fire behavior is making conditions hazardous for firefighters,” who are “being directed to not put themselves in situations where the risks are high and probability of success is low,” Prescott National Forest officials said in an update Thursday.

Popular lakes and national monuments closed in Arizona — including Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument outside Flagstaff because the wildfire moved directly over it, blackening trees, and burning tools and vehicles in a maintenance yard, said monument spokesman Richard Ullmann.

The Coconino National Forest has closed where the wildfire is burning but has not enacted broader fire restrictions or closures. A sign at a gate warns of potential loose debris, falling trees and branches, and flash floods.

Fire restrictions go into effect Friday at National Park Service sites in New Mexico, including Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument.

In Colorado, firefighters got a handle on two small wildfires in the southern and northern part of the state on Thursday while contending with strong winds.

The Boulder County blaze was sparked by the battery of a crashed drone that researchers were using to study severe weather, the sheriff’s office said Thursday. Researchers used a fire extinguisher, but the fire spread quickly in high winds, authorities said. The other fire damaged or destroyed an estimated 15 structures, including homes, in Monte Vista, a community of about 4,150 people surrounded by farm fields, police said.
____
Associated Press writers Paul Davenport in Phoenix, Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

Wildfire

July fireworks Provo...
Samantha Herrera

Provo fire department sends out reminder about July fireworks

Provo Fire and Rescue put out a firework advisory for residents wanting to set off fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
2 days ago
On Friday, fire officials managing the Left Fork Fire announced residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate...
Mark Jones

Bryce Woodlands Estate residents allowed to return home in Kane County

Kane County emergency personnel, overseeing the Left Fork Fire, announced Friday residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate will be allowed to return home Saturday.
5 days ago
On Friday, fire officials managing the Left Fork Fire announced residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate...
Mark Jones

Evacuations issued for Bryce Woodlands Estates due to Left Fork Fire

Residents in the Bryce Woodland Estates were recommended to evacuate the area by emergency personnel Tuesday due to the Left Fork Fire.
8 days ago
A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Will you be ready if wildfires close in on your home? A survivor of a wildfire shares his experience and an expert shares tips and advice.
8 days ago
FILE - President Joe Biden greets firefighters as he tours the National Interagency Fire Center, Se...
AAMER MADHANI Associated Press

Biden signs off on hefty pay raise for federal firefighters

The move announced Tuesday affects more than 16,000 firefighters and comes as much of the West braces for a difficult wildfire season.
8 days ago
Lindon City announced on its Facebook which areas will have firework restrictions and when firework...
Devin Oldroyd

Lindon City announces firework restrictions

Lindon City announced on its Facebook which areas will have firework restrictions and when fireworks will be permitted.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Sheriff’s office: Flagstaff-area wildfire burned 30 homes