FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – When Jon Stoner opens the blinds to a front window in his home “it’s a piece of heaven,” he says. Acres of ponderosa pine trees stretch into the distance, staggering up a mountain and bringing a sense of calmness to the area northeast of Flagstaff.
With a 10,000-acre wildfire burning nearby, Stoner is unsure how much of that scenery will remain intact. As he evacuated his home Sunday, he looked out that same window and saw flames shooting up above the trees.
“That’s scary,” he said from a shelter where a community briefing was held a day later. “It moves fast.”
The combination of high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds have challenged firefighters on the ground and in the air. Sustained winds of up to 20 mph with gusts of more than 30 mph grounded air tankers.
Fire crews battling the so-called Schultz fire were focused Monday on protecting homes in the fire’s path. The flames reached the backyards of some homes while coming within a few hundred feet of others, said incident commander Dugger Hughes. No structures have burned and the fire was declared 10 percent contained by Monday night.
Residents of about 750 homes remained under evacuation orders.
The fire is believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire.
Hughes said crews would fly over the area this morning to get a better idea of the perimeter and of spot fires.
The fire also abutted U.S. 89, a key route to Grand Canyon National Park about 75 miles to the north, and officials remained concerned that high winds could cause the fire to leap across the roadway.
The fire was the second that broke out in two days in the Flagstaff area.
Some of the residents of the 116 homes evacuated because of the Hardy fire in southeastern Flagstaff were being allowed to return home after crews worked to establish a perimeter around the 300-acre blaze.
A third fire burning 11 miles northeast of nearby Williams is 60 percent contained after burning 3,420 acres.
Other wildfires in the West also kept firefighters busy.
In central Colorado, a wildfire that grew from at least five smaller blazes burned at least 700 acres Monday, destroying several structures and forcing the evacuation of homes, businesses and campgrounds near the Royal Gorge Park. Firefighters east of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado continued to battle a 4,700-acre fire burning amid high winds on rugged terrain.
In New Mexico, fire officials continued to make progress on two wildfires, including one that charred nearly 13,900 acres in the Jemez Mountains.