Progress continues on Crooks Fire, but evacuated areas still unsafe for return

Apr 29, 2022, 10:44 AM | Updated: May 1, 2022, 11:00 am
(InciWeb Photo) May 4, 2022, map of the Crooks Fire, about 11 miles south of Prescott. (InciWeb)
(Facebook Photo/Prescott National Forest) (Facebook Photo/Prescott National Forest) A hotshot crew does mop-up work on the Crooks Fire near Mount Union Lookout. (InciWeb Photo/Sergio Montanez)
The sun sets over the Crooks Fire in Prescott National Park on April 26, 2022. (InciWeb Photo) (Twitter Photo/@azstateforestry) Crews protect the Palace Station Historic Stagecoach Stop Cabin from the Crooks Fire with a foil-like wrap. (U.S. Forest Service - Prescott National Forest/Crooks Fire Public Information Officer Sergio Montañez) Crews protect the Palace Station Historic Stagecoach Stop Cabin from the Crooks Fire with a foil-like wrap. (U.S. Forest Service - Prescott National Forest/Crooks Fire Public Information Officer Sergio Montañez) (InciWeb Photo) (Twitter Photo/@PrescottNF)

PHOENIX – Crews battling the Crooks Fire south of Prescott continued making progress Friday, but officials aren’t ready to say areas still under evacuation orders can be safely inhabited.

“We evaluate multiple times a day … to make sure that at the earliest possible opportunity we are going to repopulate every single area so everybody can get home,” Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes said during a community meeting on Thursday night.

“But it has to be at least reasonably safe, mostly safe.”

The fire of undetermined origin has consumed 9,402 acres since it started about 11 miles south of Prescott on April 18, according to Friday morning’s incident command report.

Containment, meanwhile, remained at 38% from the previous day.

Evacuation orders – “GO” status of the emergency response system — remain in effect for South Walker, Breezy Pines, Potato Patch, Lookout Mountain, Kamp Kipa, Mountain Pine Acres and Mount Tritle.

Rhodes was optimistic about the progress but said conditions aren’t stable.

“With the winds, things that look very safe can become very unsafe very quickly, all the way up to Prescott,” he said.

Rhodes warned that authorities will take “law enforcement action” against anybody caught in the closed-off section of Prescott National Forest without authorization.

“These areas are closed, and the time for warnings has passed,” he said.

The National Weather Service expects winds to shift and bring smoke from the Crooks Fire toward metro Phoenix on Friday afternoon, but it should mostly clear out by Saturday.

The National Interagency Fire Center said $11.7 million has been spent battling the Crooks Fire, which had 855 personnel assigned as of Friday morning’s update.

“There is an incredible amount of fire resources on this fire. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this many on a fire like that, especially as many aircraft,” Rhodes said.

Meanwhile, crews are approaching full containment on northern Arizona’s other active wildfire.

The size of the Tunnel Fire, which started April 17 about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff and damaged about 30 homes, is holding steady at 19,075 acres, with containment reported at 89% Friday morning, up from 43% a day earlier.

Related evacuation orders were lifted last weekend, but the fire zone in Coconino National Forest remains off-limits.

The National Interagency Fire Center said the cost of fighting the Tunnel Fire is $3.5 million. Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency to increase resources for related response and recovery efforts.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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Progress continues on Crooks Fire, but evacuated areas still unsafe for return