Evacuation order lifted for residents near Museum Fire north of Flagstaff
PHOENIX – Residents who were forced to evacuate because of the Museum Fire near Flagstaff were allowed to return home Wednesday.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation order for residences in the Elden Lookout Road area, which went into effect Monday evening, at 1 p.m.
Evacuees were asked to check in at Sechrist School in Flagstaff (2230 N. Fort Valley Road) and show proof of residency by 6 p.m. for re-entry into the neighborhood.
After 6 p.m., law enforcement will do check-ins at the roadblock at Fort Valley and Schultz Pass roads.
However, residents were told to remain on alert – the “set” status of the “Ready Set Go” notification system – for potential new evacuation orders if conditions change.
Ladd Vagen, his wife and two daughters had been staying at a hotel. He said he was curious to scope out the landscape when they go home but believed the community “is in just fine shape.”
Still, the family will be on notice they may have to flee again.
“I don’t think we’re going to unload our cars,” Vagen said. “We may unload minimally and do a better job of organizing what we’re going to take if we go back to ‘go’ status.”
About 5,000 people living in the vicinity of the Museum Fire, which has been burning just north of Flagstaff since Sunday, remain in “set” mode.
Road closures remain in effect throughout the designated restricted area within Coconino National Forest’s Flagstaff Ranger District.
An infrared reconnaissance flight measured the size of the fire overnight at just under 1,900 acres.
Firefighters made progress on the fire’s south an west perimeters Wednesday, bringing containment to 12% by early evening.
Wet weather has assisted firefighters in keeping the flames under control, authorities said.
However, with more rain coming, officials are concerned about the possibility of flooding and are taking precautions where possible.
They scheduled a community meeting at Coconino High School in Flagstaff at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss potential flooding.
The area had not received any significant moisture in weeks and had no previous wildfires on record. It is dense forest with lots of pine needles and grass that will burn more intensely, creating a hard clay surface that quickly sheds water.
A team that will analyze the soil and look at ways to stabilize it was expected to arrive this week.
“It’s not an easy task, but we’re going to give it our best shot,” Coconino National Forest supervisor Laura Jo West said at a community meeting Tuesday. “I can’t guarantee results.”
The firefighting cost to date is $2.1 million, incident commander Rich Nieto said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an emergency declaration to free up $200,000 from the state’s general fund to battle the fire.
He also visited with volunteers and evacuees at a Red Cross shelter in Flagstaff.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.