A huge wildfire is raging across an area north of Flagstaff, Arizona, in an inferno that has seen residents evacuated and one person arrested in connection with the blaze.
The fire, which has been burning since around 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, spread across some 4,500 acres of scrubland after winds fanned the flames for 15 miles across the dry grass and brush. Giant plumes of thick smoke were visible for miles as the land burned, with the incident dubbed the “Pipeline dire” because it engulfed the Pipeline Trail north of Buffalo Park, which follows a gas pipeline along the base of Mount Elden.
Some 270 fire personnel are battling the blaze, with resources including eight air tankers and five helicopters to tackle the wildfire. On the ground, 13 fire engines, nine fire crews, six prevention patrol units, three dozers, and one water tender were deployed. More air tankers and helicopters are due to be sent out on Monday to fight the flames.
A 57-year-old man was arrested by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers on Sunday in connection with the wildfire and charged with natural resource violations. He is being held at the Coconino County Sheriff’s Detention Facility, according to Forest Service officials. Further details about what the suspect is accused of have not yet been revealed, with Law Enforcement Patrol Captain Andy Pederson saying: “The investigation into the cause of the Pipeline Fire is ongoing and, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we cannot discuss any details of the investigation.” The suspect’s name and photo have not been released, but Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said he was stopped from leaving the scene of the fire in a white pick-up truck and was subsequently arrested.
A map showing the outline of the fire is being regularly updated on the Inciweb website run by the Forest Service and is available to view here; click on the fire icon to see the dimensions and location of the blaze.
The size of the fire forced officials to issue an order for residents to evacuate, and a map showing the evacuation area may be found on the Coconino County Emergency Management website here.
Fox News 10 spoke to a man, who was not identified, who said he was fleeing with his family. He said: “We’re going to a relative’s house that’s hopefully on the safe side of the fire. We were told that it was a mandatory evacuation, so that’s where we’re going. We packed everything right away and we’ve just been waiting for any more news. We weren’t sure if the wind was going to change, or really what was going on… We heard that it was this side of the neighborhood so that’s when we decided to go. We’re erring on the side of caution.”
The American Red Cross Arizona is opening a shelter at Sinagua Middle School at 3950 E Butler Ave in Flagstaff for evacuees, and the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise and Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort is offering emergency lodging and shelter for affected families.
An incident report on the Forest Service’s Inciweb website said: “The Pipeline Fire, located 6 miles north of Flagstaff, was reported at 10:15 a.m. by a fire lookout and is currently several acres and active on all sides. Firefighting resources are on scene and more ordered. Smoke will be visible from Flagstaff, and the wind is sweeping the smoke through Schultz Pass toward Doney Park…. Critical fire, warm and windy conditions, which are pushing the wildfire toward the east and Schultz Pass….Exact size of wildfire is currently unknown since it is continually growing. Infrared flyovers help provide a more accurate estimation, which are usually conducted at night.”
No homes or buildings have been reported destroyed, and there have been no reports of injuries.
Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. Forest Service and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office for further information about the blaze and the suspect who was arrested.