NEAR FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – The first evacuation has been ordered with several communities just outside of Flagstaff being told to be ready to evacuate because of the Rafael Fire.
Earlier in the week, Coconino County tweeted that people living south of Interstate 40 and west of Interstate 17 need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. That includes University Heights, Kachina Village, Forest Highlands, Pine Dell, and Woody Mountain Road. South Garland Prairie was ordered to evacuate Thursday afternoon but they were allowed to return on Saturday.
The Rafael Fire is burning 4 miles north of Perkinsville, which is south of Williams, and east of Highway 89. It's burned 62,376 acres with 11% containment.
The Rafael Fire was found on June 18, and is believed to have been sparked by lightning from dry thunderstorms.
“Strong gusty winds predominantly from the west in dry drought-stressed vegetation caused a significant increase in fire activity and overall fire growth today,” according to fire managers. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been called in.
Michael Berumen lives in Kachina Village and is ready to bug out if the order comes. “Go home, get my kids, I have a pregnant wife so that was my first thought. So that was my first thought. Get home, get them, and get ready to rock and roll in case we had to,” says Berumen. He's been getting things ready to go. “Packed up everything, all the essentials. I have an Old Dodge sitting over there…it’s probably going to get burned up if the fire does come this way. but hopefully not.”
Another Kachina Village resident, Mark Schiltz, says deciding what to take is tough. “You really look close at what’s really important to you. You have to make a decision on getting the things you think are important and be willing to leave the rest behind if it had to be left behind.”
The Rafael Fire is just one of nearly two dozen named fires burning in Arizona right now.