OAK CREEK CANYON, AZ - UPDATE: The fire has now grown to 4,500 acres and is threatening 300 structures. Read more: http://on.abc15.com/1ng0fFB
A wildfire that erupted near Sedona Tuesday afternoon has more than doubled, so far burning 1,000 acres and continuing to threaten private homes and vacation cabins.
Coconino National Forest spokesman Brady Smith said the Slide Fire could reach 2,000 acres or more by nightfall, as it continues to be fueled by winds in Oak Creek Canyon and gusts of 30 mph above the rim.
The afternoon winds were so strong, they forced air units to be grounded around 3 p.m. Officials said the aircraft will resume fighting the flames as soon as wind speeds in the area die down.
At a 1 p.m. press conference, officials said the fire has moved into Pumphouse Wash, prompting a pre-evacuation notice for the Kachina Village and Forest Highlands communities, both north of Oak Creek Canyon. If the flames cross Forest Service Road 237, just south of the communities, an official evacuation will be ordered.
A Type 1 Incident Management Team has responded to the area to assist in fighting the fire, and a DC-10 air tanker is on standby at Phoenix Mesa-Gateway.
Smith said the fire is zero percent contained.
About 100 structures are threatened north of Slide Rock State Park, including private homes, vacation resort cabins and a Forest Service Lookout Tower. As of Wednesday afternoon, no structures have been lost.
The blaze is burning on the north side of Highway 89 in Oak Creek Canyon near Slide Rock State Park. The fire is continuing to burn north up the canyon.
Multiple firefighting units have responded, including 200 personnel, five hotshot crews, four engines, three helicopters, an air attack unit, two water tenders and two dozers.
Smith said Wednesday that more resources, in addition to the Type 1 Incident Management Team, have been ordered, including: 15 hotshot crews, 10 Initial Attack crews, 40 engines, one light helicopter and additional overhead personnel.
Bill Morse, spokesman for the Flagstaff Fire Department, said 100-foot flames have been reported.
Evacuations have been ordered at West Fork, Pine Flat, Halfway, Cave Springs, and other campgrounds and day use areas in the upper canyon. The Butterfly Inn, Garland's, Junipine Resort, and other businesses have also been ordered to leave the area.
The evacuations also include the East Pocket Forest Service Lookout Tower.
The American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter for evacuees at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff. Officials say the shelter will not accept pets, so a separate shelter is being set up at the Coconino Humane Association located at 3950 East Butler Avenue.
Smith said Highway 89A is closed from Sedona to Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff, as a result of the wildfire.
Fire officials said this is the most complex type of wildfire to fight as the terrain is rugged and steep in certain areas. Officials also said certain aircrafts are required to help fight the fire due to the terrain. The DC-10 air tankers are unable to assist with this fire, however, single-drop airtankers will be used.
There have been no reported injuries as a result of the fire, said Smith.
Fire officials believe the blaze is human caused, but it's not yet known if it was intentional or accidental.
Fire investigators would like to hear from anyone who may have seen people or potentially suspicious activity in Oak Creek Canyon around the time the Slide Fire first sparked. Tip line: 928-527-3511
Slide Rock State Park is located about five miles north of Sedona, which is about 125 miles north of Phoenix.
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