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Just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, the U.S. Forest Service issued its final update regarding the Slide Fire, announcing the blaze, which consumed 21,227 acres over 16 days was finally 100 percent contained. Parts will still smolder for days to come.Sedona Fire District

In the weeks to come, forest officials and specialists will assess the burn area for the types of damage to it. The Coconino National Forest will reopen areas that no longer pose a danger to hikers, residents and recreationists and vice versa.

Slide Rock State Park is open again, although the swim area, which is the park’s major draw, remains closed indefinitely. Heading into the summer, tourists from around the country, especially those from the hot deserts of central and southern Arizona, play in the cool park waters and later spend their money at businesses in Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area.

The West Fork Trail also remains closed. Fortunately, photos we’ve seen from firefighters and forest officials seem to indicate the burn in West Fork varied in intensity so it’s likely the damage is far less than we feared. We have so far been unable to send a photographer into the area, but we hope to as soon as forest officials will permit access.

Most of the Slide Fire burned the plateau above the west side of the canyon beyond the view of all but the most avid hikers. Many ridges and outcroppings burned, but the creek area is still lush and green and the riparian ecosystem will recover.

Sedona Fire District crews and the 1,000 firefighters who joined them acted quickly to save homes, businesses and other structures and kept the fire from jumping the creek and burning the east side.

As long as Slide Rock State Park’s swim area and West Fork remain closed, businesses in Oak Creek Canyon will suffer. Compiled with the switchback closure, businesses were already planning for a rough summer financially. Additionally, many of the canyon resorts and restaurants lost out on projected revenues over the Memorial Day weekend, and will have to work doubly hard over the summer to make back what they could have earned over a busy weekend and stay out of the red.

Nearly every business in Oak Creek Canyon is a mom-and-pop operation. They survive financially day to day like the rest of us. I encourage residents to visit the canyon and see the aftermath for yourself. Go for a hike on your favorite trail and see how nature recovers from a wildfire. While there, stop for lunch at a canyon restaurant. Get away from the kids with a night at a canyon hotel.

The outpouring of support for wildland firefighters battling the Slide Fire was overwhelming. We need to turn that goodwill toward our friends and neighbors in Oak Creek Canyon and help them survive in the fire’s aftermath.


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