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Every year fire season threatens communities around the Southwest.

The Midwest has tornadoes, New England has Nor’easters, Florida and the Deep South have hurricanes, states on the Canadian border have blizzards and the West Coast has earthquakes. We in the Southwest — from where the Rockies rise on the edge of the prairies to where the Sierra Nevada descends to the farmlands of California — must deal with the threat of wildfires.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamOf all these natural disasters, only wildfires are preventable.

On June 18, a spark started a major wildfire to the west-northwest of Prescott. The exact cause has yet to be determined, but officials know a human is responsible, either accidently or intentionally.

At our Uptown newsroom on June 18, we heard reports from contacts in the area over the course of the afternoon as the fire spread from a small brush fire into a raging inferno racing up the side of Granite Mountain. Within two hours of the first report, the fire had spread to 500 acres. By the end of the work day, it was fast-approaching 1,000 acres and Yavapai County officials were calling for mandatory evacuations of several subdivisions in the fire’s path. The plume of smoke rose high above Mingus Mountain and drifted over Sedona and the Verde Valley toward Flagstaff, like a beacon warning us here about how a single spark can turn forests into ash.

The fire spread to more than 6,500 acres by Thursday, June 20, but has currently slowed down to more than 6,760 acres, as of official reports from the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday morning, June 25. Fire officials say the fire should be contained by Wednesday, June 26, at a cost of more than $5.8 million.

Contained is not the same as extinguished. The fire will still burn for days inside the containment area and take years to recover, like the Brins Fire scar in Oak Creek Canyon.

The Coconino, Prescott, Tonto and Kaibab national forests are all under Stage II fire restrictions, aimed at dramatically reducing the incidents of open flame near the tinderbox we call our forests right now. The forests could face one higher level of restriction before being completely shut down to visitors.

If you go hiking on the forest or down to Oak Creek, don’t start a camp fire. Don’t smoke in the wilderness and don’t throw cigarette butts from your vehicle.

A  spark along State Routes 89A or 179 could send a blaze toward Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek or Cornville, or racing up the side of Oak Creek Canyon or the red rocks around our city.

Remain hypervigilant to fire danger. In the years to come, we want to take photos of rock formations, not fire scars.

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

Christopher Fox Graham

News Editor

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