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Monsoon activity can help, hurt crews battling Grand Canyon wildfires

(InciWeb Photo)

PHOENIX – Monsoon activity can been beneficial to crews battling wildfires on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but it also cam make the situation more dangerous.

While rain can help keep the fires in the Kaibab National Forest in check, sudden changes in winds can cause the flames to shift in unexpected ways.

“Downdrafts from thunderstorms are a huge watch-out situation for firefighters,” Mike Uebel, incident commander for the Cat and Stina fires, said Friday in a news release. “The fire can move rapidly and in a completely different direction within a few minutes’ time.”

Lightning sparked the Cat Fire in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness area Aug. 6, and the blaze had grown to 1,300 acres as of Friday morning. The Stina Fire, also caused by lightning, began July 26 and was up to 1,200 acres.

Four 20-person hotshot crews, five engines and one bulldozer have been deployed to battle the fires, and multiple roads and trails in the area have been closed.

A third lightning-caused wildfire also has been burning further south on the North Rim. The Obi Fire, which began July 21, has consumed more than 7,000 acres on the far southwest corner of the North Rim’s Wahalla Plateau.

One handcrew, a fire ecologist, four engines and a helicopter were assigned to confining and containing those flames.

(InciWeb Map)

(InciWeb Map)