Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for a wildfire burning near Flagstaff in northern Arizona.
The blaze, first spotted on Sunday at about 11 a.m., charred about four square miles in a mountain pass that is a major recreational spot and just minutes from downtown Flagstaff. Local Forest Service officials said lookouts and local residents reported the blaze on Sunday morning. By noon on Sunday, the fire was at five acres, with smoke visible from Flagstaff and communities east of the city.
As the blaze continued to grow on Monday, local authorities issued an evacuation notice for nearby homes.
On Tuesday night, with fires only 10 percent contained, Ducey announced that the wildfire is a crisis and “the risk is very real.”
Ducey’s declaration made $200,000 available for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management to compensate eligible emergency response and recovery costs and to ensure that first responders have the resources they need to contain the raging blaze.
“The first responders and firefighters are reflective of the very best of what we have here in the state of Arizona,” said Ducey. “They’re heading towards danger, while others are just doing their best to be safe and Arizona certainly is thankful for that,” he said.
The Arizona governor said currently 500 firefighters, 11 hotshot crews, several helicopters, and air tankers as needed, are battling to stop the blaze for spreading. Ducey stated that additional resources are on the way and with 1,800 acres so far already charred, the “risk is very real.” It is “all hands on deck” to get the wildfire put out, said the governor.
“Let’s contain this, let’s do everything we can do,” urged Ducey. “We love our Ponderosa pines, we’re having too many wildfires, too often, they’re burning hotter than normal, it’s affecting our environment, it’s affecting the watershed, and it’s affecting the heath of the forest.”
The governor visited evacuated residents at a shelter in Flagstaff upon obtaining an updated report from emergency officials about the wildfire.
As hundreds of air and ground firefighters battle to contain the blaze, worried residents are packing up their valuables.
Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said gusty winds caused the fire to rage more intensely, posing a challenge to firefighters. Abel discussed their strategy to combat the spreading wildfire by using trails and roads to corral the blaze to keep it from nearby homes.
“A lot of what we’ll see today is connecting all the dots here on road systems, trail systems, all that, to keep things in place,” said Abel. “We have air tankers and helicopters to help keep this in check until we get all of these pieces in place,” he explained.
With rain in the weather forecast this week, authorities and residents are hoping for respite.