FLAGSTAFF — Fire officials say they are placing a portable water site near the Tunnel Fire to help give aerial crews a closer location to access water.
On Monday, officials said they will place a 4,000 gallon portable water site — called a heliwell — along Forest Road 545 near Painted Desert Vista.
This new location will help reduce the turnaround time for helicopters as they are working on mop up, cold training and line construction on the northeast portion of the fire, officials say.
In Flagstaff, evacuations were downgraded to SET near the Tunnel Fire. Residents living in the neighborhoods along Highway 89 were allowed back in after being evacuated for a number of days.
Winds are expected to shift to the southwest and increase in speed Tuesday through Thursday, with gusts up to 40 mph on Thursday.
“The fire weather conditions are expected to reach record breaking levels for this time of year,” said a Coconino National Forest press release.
“We’ll be taking advantage of today’s weather to continue securing fireline ahead of the expected winds later this week,” said Incident Commander Randy Johnson.
In Prescott, the Crooks Fire continues to burn, but evacuations are expected to be downgraded Monday for residents.
The Crooks Fire was discovered around 10 a.m. Monday, March 18, approximately 10 miles south of Prescott.
As of Monday morning, it has burned approximately 3,914 acres and is 22% contained. Fire officials said Wednesday evening that the fire is believed to be human-caused and is under investigation.
Preparation for wildfires begins months and months before the first wildfire of a new year.
In Glia County, ahead of what’s expected to be a busy fire season, crews just finished their preparations of placing their portable water tanks called "water bladders" around the county.
The inflatable portable water tanks will be placed strategically around the county for firefighters to get access to water.
“It’s for a quick response,” said Rick Hounshell, with Gila County.
Last week, forest officials went out with Gila County to replace a water bladder along State Route 87 after the one that was in place was damaged because of the sun and heat.
Along with the inflatable water tankers, crews depend on dip sites for helicopters to access water quickly too.