Contributed Photo By Deborah Lee Soltesz: The Museum Fire burns on Mount Elden northeast of Flagstaff. The fire is threatening homes and businesses.
By Jon Johnson
FLAGSTAFF – A wildfire is burning near Flagstaff and is threatening to be a major disaster.
According to U.S. Forest Service officials, the fire was at 1,325 acres as of early Tuesday evening with 10 percent containment. The Type-1 Southwest Area Incident Management Team 2 assumed command of the fire Tuesday and there is nearly 600 personnel actively fighting the fire. The team is headed by Rich Nieto and was the main team on the Woodbury Fire, which burned 123,875 acres in the Tonto National Forest from June 8 through July 18.
The fire started Sunday around 11:15 a.m. roughly one mile north of Flagstaff. The cause is under investigation.
In addition to residences, there are other structures – including power lines, pipelines, and more, that are at risk and could cause significant issues for the city. The fire is threatening roughly 3,600 homes, 180 businesses, and multiple municipal buildings.
On Monday, Coconino County issued pre-evacuation orders in the “set” stage for several communities and suggested that the entire city enter the “ready” stage to prepare to evacuate if needed. Later that night, an evacuation notice was issued for communities in the areas of Schultz Pass and Elden Lookout Road to clear the area for burnout operations.
Firefighters are battling the blaze with heavy air support and by setting backburn’s to mitigate its progression.
Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans and Coconino County Board of Supervisors Chair Lena Fowler both declared a state of emergency. Evans issued a statement on social media that read, “We are a strong community; we are resilient; we will walk through this difficult time together. Our thoughts and prayers need to be with all first responders and their families. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.”
The arrival of the monsoon season is also complicating firefighting efforts. While rain is a welcome sight when fighting a wildfire, flooding runoff may affect residents below the Museum Fire scar.