Lightning fires stopped by monsoons

August 15th, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Firefighters on the Coconino National Forest received some help from the monsoon thunderstorms in northern Arizona this week.

The monsoon put spotty rain on the Platypus, Rhino and Surveyor Fires over the weekend, but made up for it Monday with heavier precipitation and may add even more moisture Tuesday with large thunderstorm cells in the area.

The country is at its highest point of National Fire Preparedness Level. Because of this, aerial firefighting resources are being prioritized and assigned to fires with the most immediate need to protect life and property. The three fires burning north of Sedona, which are in extremely hazardous and rugged terrain in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, are not receiving aircraft support because they are not threatening people or homes. The fires now have slow activity and will be allowed to burn until they run out of fuel, receive significant moisture or until aerial resources become available.

No direct suppression efforts will be conducted on the fires unless they move outside of the wilderness and pose a risk to public safety, private property, cultural sites, major transmission power lines, trailheads or dispersed camping sites.

Sedona is receiving very little smoke after the thunderstorms. Conditions are not expected to change unless the days warm up significantly.

Thunderstorms building in the area of the fires may result in changing smoke patterns. More monsoon weather and precipitation may further suppress these wildfires.

  1. PLATYPUS FIRE OVERVIEW (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6061/)

Discovery date: July 28, 2018.

Cause: Lightning.

Location: Approximately 6 miles northwest of Sedona in Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness more than 4 miles from the nearest trailhead. (Lat/Long: 34.94291, -111.8701)

Current size: The Platypus Fire is approximately 700 acres. Fire modeling indicates the fires are unlikely to grow outside of the wilderness or pose a significant risk to communities or natural resources.

Resources: An occasional patrol and local lookouts periodically monitoring the fire. No actions are currently being taken on the Platypus Fire due to extremely hazardous and rugged terrain in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.

Predicted smoke impacts: The fire is producing a couple of small smoke streams from heavy fuel sources and the smoke is moving up and east. The smoke may be visible from Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona and the Verde Valley. Smoke dispersing to the east may settle in Flagstaff and surrounding low-level areas as the temperatures cool down. Also, the Enchantment Resort, Boyton Canyon, Seven Canyons can expect localized smoke, which is thicker in the early morning hours.

Current closures: Secret Mountain Trail No. 109 (http://bit.ly/SecretMtnTrail).

Recent and current operations: These fires have little to no activity and are continuing to consume heavy dead and down fuels. Because these fires are in extremely rugged areas of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness at the edge of sheer cliffs, fire managers have only been able to monitor them. Any firefighter assigned to work in the area would be placed at significant risk, particularly if an injury required rapid transportation for medical care.

  1. RHINO FIRE OVERVIEW (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6061/)

Discovery date: July 28, 2018.

Cause: Lightning.

Location: Approximately 8 miles northwest of Sedona in Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. (Lat/Long: 34.970900, -111.859100)

Current size: The Rhino Fire is approximately 330 acres.

Resources: Occasional patrols and lookouts are monitoring this fire.

Predicted smoke impacts: Very light smoke is being produced by heavy dead and down fuel sources and it is moving to the east. The smoke is visible from Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona and the Verde Valley. Smoke dispersing to the east may settle in Kachina Village, Flagstaff and surrounding low-level areas. Also, the Enchantment Resort, Boyton Canyon, Seven Canyons and the greater Sedona area can expect localized smoke, which could be thicker in the early morning hours.

Current closures: Secret Mountain Trail No. 109 (http://bit.ly/SecretMtnTrail).

Recent and current operations: Firefighters have been helped out by numerous thunderstorms raining on the fire. No firefighting operations are planned in the near future.

  1. SURVEYOR FIRE OVERVIEW (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6070/)

Discovery date: July 28, 2018

Cause: Lightning.

Location: Approximately 3.5 miles south of Oak Creek Canyon Vista, south of Flagstaff east of state Route 89A. (Lat/Long: 34.979611, -111.740389)

Current size: 10 acres.

Current resources: None.

Predicted smoke impacts:  A few light smoke streams are showing from smoldering fire. The smoke is dispersing up and east. Smoke also may settle in Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, especially overnight.

Current closures: None.

Recent and current operations: Suppression efforts have this fire contained. The fire received rain Monday and is smoldering in its containment area. Firefighters are continuing to monitor it.

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