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Fire crews fight the 100-acre Slate Fire 23 miles north of Flagstaff throughout Monday

Fire crews fight the 100-acre Slate Fire 23 miles north of Flagstaff throughout Monday

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Slate Fire

A view of the Slate fire from Highway 180 on Monday. The fire and operations to contain it have closed the highway for the time being. 

Firefighters continued to respond to a fire about 23 miles northwest of Flagstaff along Highway 180 throughout Monday.

Throughout the day, about 100 personnel were working to contain the Slate Fire, which grew from its size of 20 acres at about 7 a.m. to about 100 acres by the late afternoon.

National Forest spokesperson Brady Smith told the Arizona Daily Sun that firefighters will continue to work on the blaze throughout the night and into Tuesday.

Smith said the fire was growing at a normal pace and burning primarily along the ground. While there have been a few trees that have gone up in flames, Smith said there have been no significant crown fires.

The flames continued to move east throughout the day, pushed by light winds in that direction and the topography of the area.

By Monday afternoon, firefighters were conducting burnout operations along Highway 180 to the east of the fire. Those operations are designed to consume the fire’s fuel, but did force the closure of 180 to non-emergency traffic.

Smith said there is no estimated time for when that section of the road may reopen or when they may have the fire fully contained. When the road does reopen, he said it will likely be in only a limited capacity until conditions improve.

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it appears the fire started near the top of Slate Mountain before it began slowly burning down the slope.

As of 9 a.m. Monday there were already about 100 personnel on scene, including three hotshot crews, six fire engines, a bulldozer and a water truck. Later in the day, a helicopter also joined the effort.

The fire was called in by a Coconino County Sheriff's Officer at 3 a.m.

No structures were threatened as of press time, although recreation sites in the area have been closed. Those include the Red Mountain and Slate Mountain trailheads and Kendrick Cabin.

Motorists should avoid Highway 180 north of Kendrick Park, and visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park should use Highway 64 from Williams in order to access the entrance to the Park.

For a few hours on Monday, the Arizona Department of Transportation was providing a guide vehicle to those passing by the fire, but that ended when the road was closed.

Additional information is expected Tuesday morning.

The fire comes as local forest managers have been on high alert and warning of what could be a long and dangerous fire season. Disappointing monsoons and winter storms have left northern Arizona, the state and indeed, huge swaths of the west, suffering under extreme drought. 

Fire restrictions continue to be in place across the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, Coconino County and Flagstaff. 

The National Weather Service in Bellemont is calling for more warm, breezy weather this week, with gusts increasing to 30-40 mph by Thursday. High temperatures will continue to rise from the upper 70s to the upper 80s by Monday, with no precipitation in the forecast.

Adrian Skabelund can be reached by phone at (928) 556-2261, by email at askabelund@azdailysun.com or on Twitter at @AdrianSkabelund. 

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