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This story was updated at 9:45 a.m.

Part of a remote but popular climbing area has burned in the 6,935-acre lightning-ignited wildfire 15 miles northeast of Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Firefighters were able to protect much of Jack's Canyon over the weekend, but the blaze, dubbed the Canyon fire, still scorched the main climbing area, known as Moenkopi.

"I think it turned out pretty well for climbers," said Deidre Burton, who established the climbing site with a small group of other climbers in the mid-1990s. "It could have been a lot worse, but we won't know for sure until we get out there."

The fire is southwest of Winslow and southeast of Flagstaff, roughly halfway between Blue Ridge Reservoir and Meteor Crater.

It was estimated at about 38 percent contained as of Tuesday morning and was burning more intensely than first anticipated in mostly pinyon-juniper terrain (and some ponderosa pine lands).

Brady Smith, a spokesperson for the Coconino National Forest, said Monday that the climbing areas could still be at risk if the fire loops back into the canyon.

"There are pockets of green and there are pockets that have been burned pretty good, too," Smith said of the climbing site. "It looks like that area is going to rebound pretty quickly, but it's just going to depend on what the fire does on the northern flank. It could wrap around and get back into the canyon; we just don't know right now."

Burton said she went out to the fire perimeter on Monday afternoon and learned the main campground at Moenkopi had been spared. She said she thought it was likely that an additional campground near a site called the Asylum was burned.

The fire borders Highway 87 (which runs from Winslow to Payson), and the fire prompted the closure of the highway a couple times over the weekend.

Officials said they had hoped to contain the blaze soon after it started on Friday, but the blaze grew to 6,000 acres by Monday morning.

The nearest pockets of private land are about eight miles south-southwest of the fire, and firefighters were working Monday to ensure the fire could not head that direction, Smith said.

Firefighters said they hope to surround this wildfire this week and got help on Monday from humid weather and some light rains.

But climbers shouldn't expect to be allowed into the area in the immediate future. Crews will first assess the area to make sure it's safe.

"I think that area will probably be closed at least until we can figure out what snags and trees need to be cut down and removed for safety," Smith said.

Officials with the Coconino National Forest are already discussing how best to rehabilitate the area to prevent erosion and flooding when the fire ends.

Burton said she was optimistic that Moenkopi and the other sites wouldn't have been too damaged. But the possibility remained that the fire could have damaged the climbing hangers and even the rock itself.

Burton moved to Winslow with her boyfriend in 1994 specifically to "bolt" Jack's Canyon for climbing.

"It turned out to be a world-class, destination climbing area," she said.

As many as 50 people are out there on some weekends and a lot of Flagstaff climbers go out during the week. Burton said the campgrounds are popular with traveling climbers, who will stay for weeks at a time.

Firefighters are still asking drivers not to stop to take photos along the road but to keep driving and to be watchful for firefighting equipment.

Firefighting costs were estimated at $300,000 as of Monday morning, and three crews, two water tenders, an attack aircraft, two helicopters with water buckets, one helicopter-tanker, and two dozers were working it. About 125 firefighters were on the blaze.

No structures are threatened, and no injuries have been reported.


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