The lightning-caused Boundary Fire is burning on nearly 5,400 acres northwest of Flagstaff and is only 5 percent contained. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, high winds and heavy smoke have caused a section of U.S. Highway 180 between Grand Canyon and Flagstaff to remain closed.
The Boundary Fire started more than a week ago in the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness. It’s burning downed trees and forest debris left over from the Pumpkin fire in 2000. Crews with the Coconino and Kaibab national forests are using it to clear the dry fuels to prevent future wildfires, but the rugged terrain is also making it difficult for them to contain the fire.
Bob Blasi with the U.S. Forest Service says managers have kept personnel out of the steepest areas.
"The number one objective is firefighter and public safety so we’re not engaging as much and we’re trying to manage the situation where we can guarantee that people aren’t going to get trapped, hurt or worse," Blasi says.
Blasi says smoke from the Boundary Fire could force the Arizona Department of Transportation to keep U.S. 180 closed for another week or more. Smoke is visible in Flagstaff, Parks and Williams and along Interstate-40. It’s also predicted to continue impacting Cameron and Tuba City.
Winds are forecast to decrease this week, and fire managers plan to use aerial ignitions to minimize the smoke.