Arizona Wildfire Threatens Homes, Forces Evacuations

By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
May 23, 2014; 7:25 AM ET
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A 7,500-acre wildfire, which started on Tuesday in Oak Creek Canyon south of Flagstaff, Arizona, is threatening hundreds of homes and structures.

The blaze, named the Slide Fire, has forced the closure of Highway 89A from Sedona to Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff and Forest Road 535 off Highway 89A.

The cause of the fire was human caused but remains under investigation, authorities said. The fire was 5 percent contained late Thursday.

Electricity has been shut off from Slide Rock State Park, north through the canyon.

About a three-mile from Slide Rock State Park north toward the Sterling Springs Hatchery has been evacuated, as well as the East Pocket Forest Service Lookout Tower. Evacuees were relocated to Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff.

Coconino County issued a pre-evacuation warning for residents in Kachina Village and Forest Highlands subdivisions. A mandatory evacuation order had not been given as of late Wednesday night.

A vehicle heads out of Kachina Village in northern Arizona as a wildfire sends plumes of smoke into the air Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Smoke from the wildfire has reached to the Flagstaff area, and health officials asked residents to limit their exposure outside.

Winds will continue to be a problem for the firefighting effort on Friday with a high in the mid-60s. Winds will be out of the south at 7 to 14 mph.

The area could also see a thunderstorm on Friday with rain from the storm helping firefighters douse the wildfire.

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The U.S. Forest Service announced on Tuesday that it is adding four aircraft to its firefighting fleet, bringing the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air-tankers and more than 100 helicopters.

The new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters for the 2014 wildfire season, the Forest Service said in a news release.

"We continue to increase and modernize the fleet of aircraft available for wildland fire suppression activities," Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. "These new planes will combine with our existing fleet to support to our heroes on the ground fighting wildfires to keep our resources and communities safe."

The Forest Service is bringing into duty the first time this fire season a second DC-10, and three BAe-146s. The DC-10 cruises at 430 mph and can carry up to 11,600 gallons of retardant. Both the BAe-146 and a C130 originally brought on last fall cruise at roughly 350 mph and can carry more than 3,000 gallons of retardant, the agency said.

Additional large air-tankers will also be available from Canada if needed.

A helicopter drops retardant in Sterling Canyon, Arizona, on May 22, 2014, in efforts to keep the Slide Fire from moving east toward Pumphouse Wash Canyon. (Photo/U.S. Forest Service, Coconino National Forest)


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