Quenching The Hot Spots

A heavy lift helicopter drops a load of water from a Bambi Bucket onto a hot spot on the edge of the Museum Fire on Sunday afternoon.

Update at 3:30 p.m. on July 25: The Flagstaff Police Department cited a man who flicked cigarette ash outside a dry, grassy area within eyesight of the Museum Fire. 

video was posted of the man's actions on Facebook on Monday and was used as evidence to cite the man for criminal littering. 

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office commented on the video that the man was cited under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1603A1, which reads that a person commits criminal littering or polluting if the person "throws, places, drops or permits to be dropped on public property or property of another that is not a lawful dump any litter, destructive or injurious material that the person does not immediately remove."

The misdemeanor is punishable with possible jail time or fines.

"Littering is a crime . . . be careful with anything that could cause a spark. Report any suspicious activity to law enforcement," the CCSO commented on the Facebook post.

Littering can be reported to the sheriff's dispatch at 928-774-4523, option 1.

Update at 12:30 p.m. on July 25. 

A flood analysis performed by the Coconino County Flood Control District has revealed that the Museum Fire has not increased flood risks on the Burris Watershed in western Doney Park.

The hydrological analysis determined that, though the fire has burned into part of the same area affected by the 1977 Radio Fire, the watershed was only minimally affected.

If fire conditions change, the county will conduct another analysis.

The Flood Control District will hold a public meeting Thursday, July 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Cromer Elementary School, 7150 Silver Saddle Rd. The meeting will also be streamed on Coconino County’s Facebook page with American Sign Language and Spanish interpretation.

Update at 9:30 a.m. on July 25. 

A drone briefly obstructed aircraft fighting the 1900 acre Museum Fire just north of Flagstaff yesterday, according to a media release.

The drone was spotted in the southwest area of the fire and forced helicopters dropping water on the fire to stop and relocate.

Because of this, pilots were no longer able to pick up water from the Flagstaff City Reservoir north of Fort Valley Road, instead forced to pick up water from Schultz Tank to the north.

Flying drones near forest fires is illegal and prevents aircraft from operating in the area for fear that a helicopter or plane collide with the drone.

The ability to drop water and retardant via aircraft is critical to fire suppression efforts, according to officials with the fire management team.

Because of this, when drones people fly drones near forest fires, it not only endangers the lives of pilots and firefighters, but also reduces the ability of those fighting the fire.  

Regardless of motivation, fire officials ask the public not to fly drones near the fire.

“Your hobby is not worth another person’s life,” the media release reads.

Original article published 8 a.m. on July 25.

Overnight infrared mapping has shown that the Museum Fire north of Flagstaff has slowed its growth, with the total acreage burned reaching 1,927 — an increase of 40 acres — and containment holding steady at 12%, according to fire officials.

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At a briefing Thursday morning, officials said fire crews will continue to increase the containment lines in the northwest section of the blaze, just below the Dry Lake Hills area. Steve Kliest, spokesman for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, also reported a “hot spot” has developed on the east side of Mount Elden, about a mile above the Highway 89, south of Winona-Townsend Road.

“That will be an area of focus,” Kliest said. “They will drop a lot of water on it. That’s not an area of concern, because it’s a major focus and we’ve got so much aircraft — eight helicopters — working on it. They are holding that spot in check.”

Officials announced the first injury to a firefighter, a hand laceration. No structures have been destroyed or even seriously threatened, said Joel Barnett, a public-information officer for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team.

The fact that, overnight, the level of containment remained at Wednesday afternoon’s level, 12%, should not be a worry, Kliest said.

“The reason we don’t jump in containment is that when we construct a line, we want to make sure it’s going to hold,” Kliest said. “So, while we have good work being done out there, for (containment) we need to make sure it’s going to withstand a wind test, a heat test as we move into the weekend. That fire has to not cross over the line. We’ll drop water, scratch a line out and mop up into that. When the mop up begins, that’s when you’ll see (a jump in containment). It’s a cautious approach.”

A Burned Area Emergency Recovery Team is scheduled to arrive later Thursday to begin conducting assessments of burn severity.

One problem for fire officials is the absence of monsoon rains and thunderstorms, which are not expected to drench Flagstaff and the mountainous area affected by the fire. Officials do not expect heavy rains, which might help the containment effort but would increase the chances of flooding in the scorched pathway down the mountain, potentially threatening several city neighborhoods.

“But if (the) rain comes, as long as we don’t get the outflow winds, that will allow us to go more directly at the fire,” Kliest said. “But, ultimately, boots on the ground is what eventually will put this fire (under containment). The aircraft is great, but that basically just herds the fire away from valuable property.”

The goal for the rest of the week and into the weekend, official said, is to increase the westward containment line and focus on any “spot” fires, such as the one on Mount Elden’s east ridge. Though weather forecasts do not call for significant rain this weekend, Kliest warned that “if we do see significant monsoonal rains materialize, the potential for outflow winds are problematic for firefighters because then the fire’s spread can be multi-directional.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Watching The Fire
Fire on the Mountain
Flying Into The Fire
Bringing Water
Museum Fire

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