A significant wildfire is raging this week north of Flagstaff, Arizona, as evacuation orders have been issued for residents in affected areas. The blaze has been called the Pipeline Fire and has resulted in the arrest of one man last Sunday morning.
The suspect was reported to deputies and was detained following his identification during a traffic stop. He was held until officers with the U.S. Forest Service arrived to take custody of him. The charges that might be filed against him have not yet been released.
By Wednesday morning, forest officials in Coconino County reported that the fire had burned almost 23,000 acres and was only 33% contained. The Pipeline Fire is raging near the area where a fire named the Tunnel Fire burned across nearly 20,000 just two months ago.
A nearby fire described as the Haywire Fire had grown to more than 5,000 acres burned with no containment.
The Forest Service told media members that six helicopters and two tankers were brought into the fight against the fires on Tuesday and helped crews make substantial progress that is hoped to continue through the week.
Around 350 homes remain evacuated; although, new evacuation orders in the area have been downgraded. The Pipeline Fire has moved into a wilderness area and has run into a lava dome northeast of most residences in the area.
The weather has become more favorable through the week as winds across northern Arizona have died down. Firefighters have been able to take advantage of more calm conditions with increased air attacks around much of the fire’s edge. Weather services are predicting possible rain showers by the end of the week in the region.
Officials are concerned that while a weather system will help to dampen the existing fires, lighting strikes could quickly lead to new blazes.
The area in the western U.S. burned by wildfires so far this year is more than twice the size burned on average by this date over the last ten years. New Mexico has already set records this year as wildfires there have destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged water supplies.
More than 6,200 wildland firefighters are now attacking almost three dozen uncontrolled fires. Those fires have burned more than 1,780 square miles so far this year.