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Pipeline and Haywire fires still burning Thursday, additional closures announced

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Containment on the Pipeline and Haywire fires grew Thursday, as additional residents were allowed home and new closures were announced on nearby national forests.

The Type 1 Great Basin Incident Management Team (IMT) 2 assumed command of the incident Thursday morning after their arrival Wednesday.

Both fires had grown a little overnight. On Thursday morning, InciWeb reported that the Pipeline Fire was at 24,815 acres and 27% containment -- the containment number was down slightly from a day earlier because of burnout operations, fire information officer Mike Reichling said. The Haywire Fire was at 5,372 acres and 11% containment.

“A smoke inversion and minimal winds caused a decrease in overall fire behavior across the Pipeline and Haywire fires,” a Thursday morning InciWeb update noted. “Crews were able to take advantage of the lighter winds and continued a burning operation to lock off the northern progression of the Pipeline Fire.”

The fires are now largely driven by fuels and terrain rather than the wind, according to the update.

Additional residents were allowed home Thursday after several evacuations had lifted the day before. A few areas remain at the "Go" and "Set" statuses due to the fires, including around U.S. 89 north of Wupatki Trails, as "the Pipeline Fire is still very active in this area and is in close proximity to private land and the Medicine Valley residences,” according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.

Actions on the fires Thursday included completing direct and indirect lines to protect watersheds and the Kachina Peaks wilderness, and planning for potential spread on the Haywire Fire. If direct containment efforts continue to be successful, their plan is to shift focus to holding and securing perimeter lines.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday declared a state of emergency because of the fires and allocated $200,000 to the state emergency management department to help respond and recover from the blazes. The move allows the state forester and other agencies to provide other assistance as needed and provide disaster relief.

“For a community still recovering from the path of the Tunnel Fire in April, this new blaze is a reminder for all Arizonans to be vigilant and safe this wildfire season,” Ducey said.

Also on Thursday, a second hearing was held for Matthew Riser, the man accused of lighting a fire on the Coconino National Forest this weekend, 80 yards from where the Pipeline Fire started. He remains in detention following the hearing, and will reappear in court next Tuesday.

Highway 89 reopened Thursday with continued lane restrictions, as tall, blackened trees lined the highway, some of which fell over from the fierce winds that fueled the wildfire in the first couple of days, Reichling said.

“It wasn't scorched earth, but it was burnt,” Reichling said. “It cleaned up the forest on the understory, so hopefully a lot of those trees will bounce back.”

Meanwhile, the Coconino and Kaibab national forests announced additional closures due to concerns about fire danger and public safety.

The closure of much of the Coconino National Forest north of I-40 continues to be in effect, with the addition of the Bill Williams Mountain area Friday and the areas around Pumphouse Wash/Kelly Canyon and Fisher Point/Walnut Canyon Saturday.

These closures will remain in place until hot, dry conditions are no longer expected to continue and until “the forest receives enough widespread precipitation to lower fire danger.”

Forest officials said more extensive or even full forest closures could come if conditions worsen. Campfires aren't allowed anywhere in the forests under current restrictions.

The rest of the national forests remain in Stage 2 fire restrictions, with the City of Flagstaff set to go into Stage 3 restrictions Friday.

Beginning Friday, this weekend is forecast to bring increased moisture, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms highest on Saturday. A wind advisory was issued Thursday afternoon and will continue until 8 p.m. on Friday. Flooding and dry lightning that could spark new blazes also are concerns.

“If gusty and erratic winds develop with these storms, there could be several days of more aggressive fire behavior,” according to the InciWeb page. “There should be an increase in humidity, so if the winds stay moderated, the changing weather conditions could be beneficial."

More about the fires is available at coconino.az.gov/2926/Pipeline-FireHaywire-Fire.

Felicia Fonseca with the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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