Smoke from wildfires in Arizona spreads into New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma

smoke Arizona wildfires
Forecast for the distribution of near surface and vertically integrated smoke from wildfires, at 2 p.m. MDT August 22, 2019. Click to enlarge.

Smoke from wildfires in Arizona is spreading east into New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Three central Arizona fires total over 14,000 acres

Sheridan, Boulin, and Saber fires, all within 70 miles of Flagstaff

maplocation of wildfires Arizona Sheridan Saber wildfires
GOES 16 satellite photo (enhanced with infrared imagery) showing smoke generated by wildfires in Arizona at 6:46 p.m. MDT August 21, 2019.

Three wildfires in Central Arizona have burned a total of more than 14,000 acres. All of the fires are being managed, rather than suppressed, in order to enhance the natural resources.

The Sheridan Fire 26 miles northwest of Prescott is by far the most active of the three, more than tripling in size over the last two days. (See map below) The fire behavior is described as extreme, with running, wind-driven runs, and short-range spotting. A mapping flight early Thursday morning found that the lightning-caused fire had burned 8,594 acres. About 75 percent of the fire is being monitored while 25 percent is under a point protection strategy, suppressing or retarding the spread in order to protect specific sites.

The Saber fire, also started by lightning, has burned 2,093 acres 16 miles southwest of Flagstaff. Very little current information is available about this incident.

The 3,900-acre Boulin Fire 24 miles northwest of Flagstaff has calmed down considerably after putting up a large column of smoke on August 20.

Map location of wildfires in Arizona Sheridan Saber wildfires
Map showing the location of wildfires in Arizona at 4:24 a.m. MDT August 22, 2019.

Two large fires north of Grand Canyon allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries

The Ikes and Castle Fires have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres

Ikes Fire Arizona
Aerial view of the Ikes Fire, August 15, 2019. Paul Lemmon photo.

Two wildland fires on lands managed by federal agencies north of the Grand Canyon have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres. Both fires, burning at about 8,000 feet above sea level, are being allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries in order to benefit the natural resources. (see map below)

The largest blaze, the Castle Fire on the Kaibab National Forest, has burned through 96 percent of the 19,368-acre planning area, consuming a significant amount of dead and down trees and some mixed conifer species. As expected with strong gusty winds on Friday, it became more active moving into pockets of unburned piñon-juniper and mixed conifer. The fire slowed once reaching confinement lines. A total of 32 personnel are assigned, which includes 4 fire engine crews. The estimated cost to date is $4.6 million.

map Castle and Ikes Fires Arizona
3-D map (looking west) showing the locations of the Castle and Ikes Fires north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Data from August 17, 2019 at 3:30 a.m.

The 3,500-acre Ikes Fire is burning in Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. It has spread across 42 percent of the 7,785-acre planning area, with low to moderate fire behavior being observed. Firefighting resources assigned include 1 hand crew, 7 fire engines, and 1 helicopter for a total of 88 personnel. On Friday gusty winds prevented firefighters from carrying out firing operations. Crews patrolled the perimeter on the northeast and eastern portions of the fire while other personnel continued to prep the west side of Forest Service Road 223. Observed fire behavior was active, with backing fire along ridge tops and single tree torching. The estimated cost to date is $1 million.

The predicted weather for the weekend is warm, very dry conditions with temperatures about 5 degrees above average. Gusty west to southwest breezes are predicted for Saturday afternoon with light drainage winds overnight.

Firefighters Arizona Castle Fire
Firefighters on the Castle Fire. Photo by Jackie Banks for the Kaibab National Forest July 19, 2019.

Museum Fire causes evacuations at Flagstaff

It has come to within a mile of the north edge of the city

(UPDATE at 6:24 a.m. MDT July 23, 2019)

air tanker drop bae-146 Museum Fire Flagstaff Arizona
Air Tanker 01, a BAe-146, drops retardant on the Museum Fire near Mt. Elden at 2:30 p.m. July 22, 2019. Photo by Nick Cain.

Fire officials say the Museum Fire north of Flagstaff, Arizona has burned 1,800 acres. (UPDATE at 11:33 a.m. MDT July 23, 2019: the size estimate by the Incident Management Team was reduced to 1,000 acres Tuesday morning.) Part of that increase may be from back-burning out ahead of the fire in the area of Mount Elden Lookout Road.

Monday afternoon the Coconino County Sheriff issued an evacuation order effective at 6 p.m. until further notice for all persons living, working and accessing a home from Mount Elden Lookout Road. All residents east of Weatherford Road with access on Mount Elden Lookout Road were included. The evacuation is to support burnout operations and to prevent the fire from coming into these neighborhoods.

At about 4 p.m. the weather station near the Flagstaff airport south of town recorded 0.03 inch of rain. Monday night the relative humidity reached 70 percent, a level that would retard the spread of a wildfire. The weather forecast for the fire area calls for a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoons on Tuesday and Wednesday, with an estimated total of approximately half an inch. Rain could continue off and on through the rest of this week.

A fixed wing mapping flight scheduled for Monday night had to be cancelled due to cloud cover.

The Type 1 Southwest Area Incident Management Team 2 assumed command of the fire at 6 p.m. Monday. The Incident Command Post is located at Ft. Tuthill, just south of Flagstaff.

Map Museum Fire July 22, 2019
This map represents the evacuation information for the Museum Incident as well as the sheltering information in Flagstaff. It was updated at 7 p.m. 7/22/2019 by Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AZ DEMA), Coconino County, and SWIMT2.

(UPDATED at 10:14 am MDT July 22, 2019)

map Museum Fire Flagstaff Arizona
The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite overflight of the Museum Fire at 3:18 a.m. MDT July 22, 2019. The red line was the product created by interpreting data from a fixed wing mapping flight at 1:45 a.m. MDT July 22, 2019. Click to enlarge.

The Coconino National Forest is saying the Museum Fire north of Flagstaff has burned 1,000 acres, which is consistent with the data from a satellite overflight of the fire at 3:18 a.m. MDT July 22, 2019.

(UPDATED at 7:46 a.m. MDT July 22, 2019)

Map flagstaff arizona Museum Fire
Map showing the perimeter of the Museum Fire at 1:45 a.m. MDT July 22, 2019, according to a fixed wing mapping flight.

Firefighters continue to battle the Museum Fire just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Coconino County has issued a pre-evacuation notice for several neighborhoods, including Mt. Elden Lookout Estates, north and west of Highway 89 and Silver Saddle, Hutcheson Acres, McCann Estates, and all of the Timberline communities (Black Bill Park, Wupatki Trails and Pine Mountain Estates.) Residents in these areas are advised to be ready to evacuate if it becomes necessary.

Data from an overnight fixed wing mapping flight indicates that the fire has burned 415 acres. Satellite imagery collected about half an hour later appears to show that the fire is significantly larger, but the fixed wing flight should be much more accurate.

We will update this article as more information becomes available.

(Originally published at 7:05 p.m. MDT July 21, 2019)

Museum Fire Flagstaff, Arizona
Museum Fire, July 21, 2019. InciWeb.

A fire named “Museum” is causing evacuations on the north side of Flagstaff, Arizona. It was reported at 10:53 a.m. Sunday and had burned approximately 400 acres by 6:22 Sunday afternoon, coming to within a mile of the outskirts of the city (see the map below).

Due to the complexity, a Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered and should arrive on Monday.

Evacuation information is being handled by Coconino County Emergency Management and conducted by the Sheriff’s Office. The Emergency Management Call Center can be reached at (928) 213-2990.

Map flagstaff arizona Museum Fire
Map showing the location of the Museum Fire at 2:54 p.m. MDT July 21, 2019 north of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Firefighting resources assigned to fire Sunday afternoon included:

  • 7 Fire Engines
  • 2 Hot Shot crews
  • 4 other Hand Crews
  • 2 Dozers
  • 2 Water Tenders
  • 4 Large Air Tankers
  • 4 Single Engine Air Tankers
  • 1 Very Large Air Tanker (DC-10)
  • 3 Type 1 Helicopters

A weather station at the Flagstaff Airport Sunday afternoon recorded a temperature of 87 degrees, 14 percent humidity, and 6 to 9 mph winds out of the west and southwest gusting to 20. For Monday the forecast is for 83 degrees, 18 percent RH, and variable winds of 6 to 9 mph.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

The Hart Fire is being allowed to burn northeast of Payson, Arizona

map hart fire arizona payson
Map showing heat detected on the Hart Fire at 3:36 a.m. MDT July 21, 2019. The fire is 18 miles northeast of Payson, Arizona.

(Originally published at 10:53 a.m. MDT July 21, 2019)

The Hart Fire 18 miles northeast of Payson, Arizona was very active Saturday and Saturday night, spreading south for about a mile. The Coconino National Forest has not updated the information about the fire on InciWeb since July 19, but part of the growth could be due to firing out along Forest Roads 96 and 321.

The fire is not being fully suppressed, according to the strategy described by the Coconino National Forest on July 19:

After careful review and discussion by fire managers, both Hart and Duke Fires  will be allowed to burn in their predetermined fire perimeter to obtain resource objectives. Low intensity wildfires are used to help protect ponderosa pine forests from more severe damage by cleaning the forest floor of existing dried pine needles, dead shrubs and grasses. Too much accumulation of dried and dead fuels could allow fires to reach the canopy of the trees and possible crown fires. Fire also helps fertilize the soils to ensure a healthier forest.

The term “their predetermined fire perimeter” is not defined and as far as we can tell no maps of that area have been posted.

The Duke Fire is 10 miles north of the Hart Fire, north of highway 65/87/282, and has not been very active recently.

The Hart Fire is burning at 7,000 feet. The last update by the Forest Service on July 19 said it had burned 1,100 acres. Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data shows that it has most likely burned two to three times that amount.

The weather forecast for the Hart Fire for the next few days predicts temperatures in the 80s, humidity less than 20 percent, and a chance of thunderstorms each day beginning Monday.

Central Fire breaks out north of Phoenix

(UPDATED at 9:37 a.m. MDT July 21, 2019)

Map Arizona location Central Fire
The brown dots represent heat on the Central Fire east of New River, Arizona, detected by a satellite at 3:21 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019.

Officials said Saturday evening that the Central Fire just east of New River, Arizona had burned 503 acres (see the map below). The National Situation Report issued Sunday morning has it listed at 800 acres. Since Saturday evening very little additional information has been released.

Most of the fire is on land managed by the Tonto National Forest.

Map Arizona location Central Fire
Map showing the location of the Central Fire 35 miles north of Phoenix at 3:21 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019.

During the first few hours after the fire started Saturday afternoon firefighting resources mobilized included two Very Large Air Tankers (DC-10s), four Large Air Tankers, and three hand crews.

The fire is burning about 35 miles north of Phoenix, 4 miles east of Interstate 17, which remains open.

A satellite overflight at approximately 3 a.m. MDT on Sunday did not detect any large heat sources on the fire. This could mean the fire was not very active at that time, or clouds obscured the view. It does not mean the fire is out. It is likely that the fire is burning in light fuels such as grass and brush that burns quickly without leaving residual heat, making it very difficult for an orbiting satellite 200 miles over the fire to detect heat.

We will update this article after the Tonto National Forest releases information.

(Originally published at 5:46 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019)

map Central Fire New River, AZ
3-D map showing the location of the Central Fire near New River, AZ at 2:32 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019. Looking east.

(Originally published at 5:47 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019)

Saturday afternoon a wildfire broke out near New River, Arizona north of Phoenix. Late Saturday afternoon Arizona State Forestry said it had burned 250 acres. (see the map above)

The blaze is 48 miles northwest of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport, which is a fairly quick turnaround for the air tankers working out the airport’s retardant reload base. Other air tankers are coming from Prescott. At 5 p.m. MDT FlightAware showed the following air tankers working on the fire; Tankers 01, 16, 15, 164, and 911 (a very large air tanker, a DC-10), plus an assortment of air attack and lead planes.

aircraft map Central Fire
FlightAware map showing aircraft near the Central Fire in Arizona at 4:53 MDT July 20, 2019.
Central Fire Arizona
Aerial photo of the Central Fire. Arizona State Forestry.