On Tuesday, flames rose to 100 feet (30 m) through a patch of scattered homes, dry grass, and Ponderosa Pine trees in a rural area near Flagstaff. Winds up to 50 mph (80 km/h) helped push the flames over a major highway.
Weather conditions were favorable Wednesday, with light breezes. However, Thursday saw stronger winds. Mark Stubblefield (a Flagstaff-based National Weather Service meteorologist) said that the weather conditions would be more favorable Thursday.
Stubblefield stated that no significant precipitation is expected through next week.
Officials from Coconino County stated that 766 houses and 1000 animals were evacuated during a Tuesday night news conference. Around 250 structures were still at risk in the area, which is popular with hikers and other off-road vehicle users. It's also where astronauts have trained among volcanic cinder pits.
After the wildfire grew to 100 acres (40 ha) Tuesday morning, it exploded to more than 9 square miles (22.3 km) by night and 26 square miles (66.7 km) by Wednesday morning. The county declared an emergency.
According to Brady Smith, a Coconino National Forest spokesperson, the fire was moving northeast from Flagstaff, where Northern Arizona University is located, toward Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
Smith stated that the fire is headed towards less fuel and isn't heading toward densely populated areas. "But it depends on the intensity of fire, fire can still move through cinders."
The wildfire's effects on people will not be known by authorities until the flames have subsided. Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said that while law enforcement and firefighters went door-to-door urging people to evacuate, they had to stop to avoid being boxed in.
His office received a call from a man trapped in his home, but firefighters were unable to reach him.
Driscoll stated that "we don't know if it was made out"
Numerous organizations set up shelters to accommodate evacuees, as well as animals, such as goats and horses.
Residents recall running to flee the scene when a larger wildfire erupted in the same area a dozen years back.
Kathy Vollmer, a resident, said that "This time was different."
She claimed that her husband and she grabbed their three dogs, but she left behind a few cats as they faced "walls of fire"
She said, "We just hope that they will be OK."
The wildfire had already closed down U.S. 89 earlier in the day. This was the main route connecting Flagstaff with far northern Arizona and communities of the Navajo Nation. High winds grounded any aircraft that could drop water or fire retardant on the blaze.
Arizona Public Service Co. is the largest utility in Arizona. It shut off power to 625 customers to protect firefighters, a spokeswoman stated.
Around 200 firefighters battled the flames. But, more will be needed as a high-ranking national management team takes control later in the week.
Sunday afternoon, the fire broke out about 14 miles (22 km) northeast Flagstaff. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire and crews are yet to contain it.
Ali Taranto, who works at a hospital in Winslow on Tuesday, rushed to Flagstaff to inspect a property that had been threatened by wildfires. She was also receiving messages from her neighbor to check on her. She discovered that the neighbor didn't have oxygen and couldn't open her garage to evacuate.
Taranto stated that the neighbor was "disoriented, gasping for air" upon reaching her. She said that firefighters helped open the garage door and brought the neighbor to the hospital. Taranto was searching for shelter for her two dogs.
Taranto had already left the area when the highway to Flagstaff was closed and she had to travel an additional two hours home. She said that at least two other neighbors did not evacuate.
Taranto stated, "Seeing flames a few yards from your property line was surreal. It was also very surreal to hear the propane tanks bursting in background." "Ash falling down. It was insane.
On Wednesday, New Mexico was blanketed in red flag warnings. This indicates that wildfire dangers are imminent. Residents of northern New Mexico's Mora, San Miguel and Santa Cruz counties were advised to prepare for evacuation as wildfires erupted in dry, warm, and windy conditions.
Wednesday's report by the National Interagency Fire Center stated that more than 2,300 wildland firefighters were assigned to fight large wildfires in the Rocky Mountain, Southern and Southwest regions. Scientists believe that climate change has made America's West warmer and dryer over the past 30 years. This will make it more extreme and more likely for wildfires to become more destructive.
Firefighters battled a wildfire in Arizona's Prescott National Forest, 10 miles (16 km) south of Prescott.
Cory Carlson of Prescott National Forest was the incident commander. He said that the highest winds were the greatest challenge. They sent embers into high altitude, which in turn caused new spot fires to be started near State Route 261.
He said, "We do not have the resources we need." "There are many fires in this region."