Crews keep Arizona wildfires fires in check despite hot, dry conditions

Jun 17, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: 3:03 pm

PHOENIX – Crews have been keeping two northern Arizona wildfires in check in recent days, and help from Mother Nature could be on the way.

Despite hot, dry and breezy conditions, the Pipeline and Haywire fires saw only minimal growth Thursday, officials said.

Similar conditions are expected most of Friday, but there’s a chance of rain in the late evening and overnight forecast.

The Pipeline Fire, which started 6 miles north of Flagstaff, had consumed 26,297 acres and was 27% contained as of Friday morning, according to the incident management team. It was measured at 24,815 acres with 27% containment the previous morning.

The smaller Haywire Fire, which is several miles east of the Pipeline Fire in Coconino National Forest, was at 5,449 acres with 11% containment Friday morning, almost identical to the readings a day earlier.

Firefighters have been able to keep the flames from advancing significantly since the initial rapid spread early in the week.

“Constructed fire lines held with little growth on the Pipeline and Haywire fires,” the incident management team said in its Friday morning report. “Hot dry weather continues to contribute to the critically dry fuels. The night will bring a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11 p.m. with the potential for strong, gusty winds, dangerous lightning and heavy rain.

“Winds will carry smoke … north-northeast, impacting homesteads north and east of Flagstaff, including the Navajo Nation.”

The Pipeline and Haywire fires have been burning through grass, brush and pine trees near where the Tunnel Fire consumed about 19,000 acres in the spring. While monsoon storms could help with firefighting efforts, the burn scars are highly susceptible to flash flooding.

Most of the evacuations related to the two wildfires have been lifted, and traffic has resumed on U.S. Highway 89 after closures earlier in the week. However, most of the Coconino National Forest north of Interstate 40 remains closed.

Schultz Pass Road, Arizona Snowbowl, Crater Estates/Alpine Ranchos West and O’Leary/Sunset Crater remain in the “GO” status of the emergency response system.

A shelter at Sinagua Middle School is still open. Impacted residents can get more information from the Coconino County Fire Call Center at 928-679-8525.

As of Friday morning, a combined 916 personnel were working on the Pipeline and Haywire fires, with 14 Hotshot crews, 13 hand crews, 56 engines, nine water tenders, nine dozers and nine helicopters, officials said.

More than 2,500 homes had been evacuated at some point since the Pipeline Fire ignited on Sunday, with one home and a secondary structured burned.

Matthew Riser, 57, was arrested for allegedly starting the blaze by burning toilet paper and putting it under a rock.

Officials believe a lightning strike sparked the Haywire Fire, which was first reported Monday and now includes two merged incidents, along with what had been called the Double Fire.

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Crews keep Arizona wildfires fires in check despite hot, dry conditions