Dozens of wildfires were burning hot and dry across the western United States, including a lightning strike that swept through the largest city in northern Arizona.
On Monday, the mountainous city of Flagstaff was surrounded by smoke. The surrounding national forest has been announced to be completely closed this week – the first time since 2006.
Over the next few days it was expected that the intense heat that would have generally prevented the firefighting efforts would be moderated. However, the National Weather Service has stated that it could create uncertainty for firefighters.
“It’s a good option for moisture and scattered rain,” said meteorologist Andrew Taylor. “Lightning is not a good thing.”
In California, firefighters had a difficult job caring for a large forest fire in the rugged mountains of the Big Sur south coast, forcing them to evacuate a Buddhist monastery and surrounding campground.
In New Mexico, lightning fires have been raging in the southern part of the state, where much of the Gila Desert remains closed, and fire officials are watching near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
So far more land has been burned across Arizona as new fires begin to rapidly change resources. Although humans are responsible for the majority of the fires, lightning struck 80 km (31 km) west of Sedona as it headed toward Flagstaff, known as the “Rafael Fire.”
A senior management team was ordered to oversee the fire burning the grass, juniper, chaparral and ponderosa pines.
Several campgrounds have already been evacuated, and for a moment they told rural residents to prepare for evacuation, said County Sheriff Jon Paxton, a spokesman for Coconino County.
Due to the Rafael Fire, 1-40 south, all southwest of I-17, including University Heights, Kachina Village, Forest Highlands, Pine Dell and Woody Mountain Road are in the SET state. Start preparing for the possible EVACUATE GO application.
THIS IS NOT EVAC NOTIFICATION.
– Coconino County (@CoconinoCounty) June 21, 2021
If the fire continues with a northeasterly push, it could also damage hundreds of people in Flagstaff (a university town two hours north of Phoenix), Paxton said.
Firefighters were preparing a plan to starve Rafael Sua to starve to death as he was moving through rugged terrain, canyons and the desert, said Dolores Garcia, the fire chief. As of Monday, it was moving parallel to Interstate 40 along the Coconino and Yavapai regional lines.
The 7,283-square-mile (2,812-square-mile) Coconino National Forest, a popular site for camping, hiking, boating and fishing, is closing on Wednesday because it will not have enough resources to respond to future fires.
In recent years the forest has been partially closed due to the risk of fires.
“We have limited resources, and we’re using it right now,” said Forestry spokesman Brady Smith.
Arizona is at the highest level of fire preparation. It was nearly 70 percent Monday near the Superior area, a large fire 97 miles west of Phoenix. The 730-square-mile (282-square-foot) fire was caused by humans.
Residents near small communities of Pine and Strawberry continue to be evacuated due to another fire that has erupted between tree tops, igniting flames carried by the wind. Some local roads were also closed.
Fire crews have not yet contained any of the fire perimeters. The lightning generated Monday was estimated at 132 square kilometers (51 square kilometers) on Monday and is managed by a high-level team.
In Utah, several fires were burning in the dry bone. The largest of the small Enterprise town in southern Utah forced evacuations over the weekend. But the homeowners were allowed to return, as it held up to 50 percent.