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Officials share insight on efforts done to control Rafael Fire

Posted at 9:54 PM, Jun 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-27 00:54:07-04

As of Saturday morning, the Rafael Fire burning west of Sedona and southwest of Flagstaff had burned 45,899 acres.

Fire officials report the fire is 0% contained but they say they have a good handle on the fire as it makes its way out of Sycamore Canyon.

“The Sycamore Canyon is very deep, steep, heavily fueled and has alignment with wind," said Rick Miller.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Actively burning wildfires in Arizona

Miller says he and his group of firefighters have focused their efforts on burning what’s known as ‘prescribed fires’, creating fires along roadways to create a perimeter and allow for the Rafael Fire to "catch up" to the areas where firefighters have burned.

“Eventually Rafael will catch up to these burnouts,” said Bryor Nittmann, a firefighter working along with a crew of 19.

The fire started last Friday and was caused by thunderstorm lightning in the remote forest area of the Prescott National Forest. Since then it has grown and reached three national forests that include Coconino and Kaibab along with state lands.

“[We are] Just trying to stay ahead of what is coming out of the canyon. It has made some big bushes on its own so trying to keep things buffered as we were going to the north," Nittmann said.

"We knew we needed to come to the roads where we didn’t need a lot of time to prepare to put the fire out," Miller said.

With multiple fires burning in our state simultaneously, one other thing that played a role in creating these burnouts was the lack of resources.

“The whole southwest is under a fuels and fire weather advisory and with the ongoing drought that we continue to be in our fuels are stressed," said Dave Bales, incident commander.

This type of fire management was also put into place several days ago when the weather proved to be on their side.

“We were looking at having two favorable days of weather that we knew would decrease the fire behavior [and] give us a chance to do a lot of burning under those optimal conditions,” adds Miller.

The fire lines are roughly 13 miles outside of Flagstaff.

No buildings or structures have been destroyed.