Firefighters Make Progress On Museum Fire As Flagstaff Residents Brace For Floods

By Jimmy Jenkins, Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, July 25, 2019 - 11:45am
Updated: Friday, July 26, 2019 - 8:33am

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Museum Fire
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
A Forest Service truck at the Museum Fire.

LAUREN GILGER: Firefighters battling the Museum Fire burning just north of Flagstaff got some help yesterday from monsoon rains, a welcome relief from the dry and windy conditions they have been experiencing. But now concerns are turning to potential flooding. The fire has consumed some 1,800 acres so far and was contained by only 12% at last check. And here to give us the latest on all of this is KJZZ's Jimmy Jenkins, who is in Flagstaff now. Jimmy, good morning.

JIMMY JENKINS: Hey, good morning Lauren.

GILGER: So what is the latest? Is that number still correct. only 12% contained?

JENKINS: Yeah. Those numbers are still about the same. A little more than closer to 1,900 hundred acres, about 12 or 13% contained is what the latest numbers are telling us.

GILGER: And how much did though the rains that you guys got up there in Flagstaff yesterday help? Is this really gonna make a dent?

JENKINS: Yeah, actually we got some more information on that last night at the community meeting at Coconino High School. Some of the fire officials told us that because of the rain, they were actually allowed to do more aggressive things like establish fire lines and kind of go in and sort of attack certain areas that they wanted to work on. So, yes. With regard to that, they say it's it's helping them fight the fire. Hasn't been a lot of rain, so that's good because it hasn't triggered any flooding yet. But also not quite enough to really start to extinguish things.

Museum Fire
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
A Museum Fire back burn area.

GILGER: What do the weather conditions look like going forward? Are we looking at any more rain or drier and windier conditions?

JENKINS: Yes. The National Weather Service officials told us last night that since we are in monsoon here, we are expecting more rain over the next couple days. Just as I look up around me it's cloudy skies, looking dark toward the peaks. And the weather patterns up here are so incredible. Just yesterday, they had a couple extreme downpours on one side of a slope, another side of a slope. So they're monitoring things closely. But the areas that they're concerned about they do believe will receive some rain over the next few days.

GILGER: And give us a sense — like, you're you're standing in Flagstaff and you can pretty much see where this is burning, right? How close is this to where people are living?

JENKINS: Yeah. Well, just to give you a sense, like last night when we were all at Coconino High School, the helicopters that were dumping the buckets of water were just you know two ridges over. The police and fire have cordoned off a lot of roads, but I was able to kind of work my way around some backroads last night, Lauren, and I was able to get close to the fire. And it's within half mile of a lot of nice homes, a lot of different areas out here. So this is really on people's doorstep.

GILGER: Are people under evacuation notice at this point still?

JENKINS: There were several hundred residents that were evacuated and allowed to return yesterday. So, no. Currently no one is evacuated, but they're all in that sort of "set" stage where they could be asked to leave again if conditions change. And everyone, as I've been driving around, everyone's putting up sandbags around their homes trying to kind of direct water down the mountain away from their property.

GILGER: Right. So let's talk more about that. Why are concerns turning to flooding at this point?

JENKINS: Because this is something that they have gone through here before. They specifically talked to us about how in 2010 the Schultz Fire was so severe, the flooding afterwards was so severe, that they got a lot of really good data that they'd been working with. And this fire scar is going to be similar to that fire scar, which means they can kind of figure out where the water is going to drain and flow. So they're using that data to help people get ready. Help people be prepared. They're talking about what a fire does to the ground. It can actually kind of turn it into like a glassy substance, which increases the speed of the water and potential debris flows.

GILGER: Yeah. So last question for you before I let you go: have you gotten a chance to talk to some of the people up there, and and how are people feeling about this?

JENKINS: A lot of people are concerned, obviously. A lot of people were relieved. I talked to a couple of people who got to go back to their homes yesterday, so a lot of people in the Sunnyside area are happy to be back in their neighborhoods butat the same time very tense. I think they're just kind of waiting hour by hour. A lot of people I talked to said they're kind of just refreshing weather apps. And then the other thing that kind of shows the heightened sense of awareness — the whole time we were at this meeting last night, those emergency alerts kept going off on everyone's phone, and everyone really is on constant alert here and for good reason. This could be serious danger after we get through the one danger of the fire, everyone needs to be on alert for the potential flooding that's coming. And so I think everyone's taking the necessary steps, but definitely a heightened sense of awareness here.

GILGER: All right. That's KJZZ's Jimmy Jenkins joining us from Flagstaff where the Museum Fire is burning. Jimmy, thank you for joining us.

JENKINS: My pleasure, Lauren.

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