Under the hot and dry conditions of the western United States, dozens of wildfires are burning, and one of the fires triggered by lightning is moving to the largest city in northern Arizona.
On Monday, the mountainous city of Flagstaff was shrouded in thick smoke. The surrounding national forest announced that it will be fully closed later this week-this is the first time since 2006.
It is expected that the intense heat that hinders wider firefighting efforts will abate in the coming days. However, the National Weather Service pointed out that this may create uncertainty for firefighters.
“Humidity and the possibility of some sporadic rainfall is a good thing,” said meteorologist Andrew Taylor. “Thunder and lightning are not a good thing.”
In California, firefighters still face the daunting task of trying to control a large-scale forest fire in the rugged coastal mountains south of Big Sur, which forced the evacuation of a Buddhist monastery and nearby campground.
In New Mexico, fires caused by lightning have been scorching the southern part of the state, where most of the Gila Wilderness is still closed, and fire officials are paying close attention to the Gila Cliff House National Monument.
So far, as new wildfires begin to rapidly shift resources, Arizona has burned more land. Although most wildfires are to be blamed on humans, lightning caused a fire that moved towards Flagstaff within an area of 80 square kilometers (31 square miles) west of Sedona, known as the “Raphael Fire”.
A top management team has been ordered to oversee the fires burning in grass, juniper, jungle and ponderosa pine.
Coconino County Sheriff’s spokesperson Jon Paxton said some campers have evacuated and residents in rural areas have been told to prepare to evacuate immediately.
Due to the Rafael fire, all areas south of Highway 1-40 and west of Highway I-17, including University Heights, Kachina Village, Forest Heights, Pine Valley, and Woody Mountain Road, are now in SET status. Begin to prepare possible GO commands for evacuation.
This is not an evacuation notice.
-Coconino County (@CoconinoCounty) June 21, 2021
Paxton said that if the fire continues to the northeast, hundreds of people in Flagstaff (a college town about two hours’ drive north of Phoenix) may also be affected.
Fire officer Dolores García said that fire officials are working on a plan to run out of fuel as the Rafael Fire traverses rugged terrain, canyons and wilderness. As of Monday, it runs parallel to Interstate 40 along the Coconino and Yavapai county lines.
Covering an area of 7,283 square kilometers (2,812 square miles), the Coconino National Forest is a popular area for camping, hiking, boating and fishing. It will be closed on Wednesday due to concerns that it will not have enough resources to deal with any future wildfires.
Due to the danger of wildfires, the forest has only been partially closed in recent years.
“We have limited resources and we are currently developing it,” said Forest spokesman Brady Smith.
Arizona’s preparations for wildfires are at the highest level. On Monday, a large wildfire burning near Superior, about 97 kilometers (60 miles) west of Phoenix, was controlled by nearly 70%. The 730 square kilometers (282 square miles) fire was caused by man.
Residents near the small communities of Pine and Strawberry were still evacuated because another wildfire jumped between the treetops and the flames were blown forward by the wind. Roads in some places have also been closed.
Firefighters have not yet controlled any perimeter of the wildfire. On Monday, the fire caused by lightning was estimated to be 132 square kilometers (51 square miles) and was managed by a top team.
In Utah, several wildfires burned in extremely dry conditions. The biggest weekend near the corporate town in southern Utah was forced to evacuate.But as the control rate reaches 50%, the homeowner is allowed to return.