Home / National News / Firefighting Effort Moves to Arizona as Wildfires Rage Near Campgrounds


(SEDONA, Ariz.) — Near Sedona, Arizona’s iconic red rocks, a wildfire — 0 percent contained — continued to char some of America’s most gorgeous landscape, causing tourists to be turned away before the Memorial Day weekend.

“We were fortunate enough to stay at a hotel,” said Brandon Roberts of Phoenix, who was forced to leave the campground when the fire broke out.

He and his wife, Roxanne, had no time to pack and were still wearing their bathing suits.

“We’re trying to see if we can’t get our camp trailer back, her car and purse and credit cards and cell phone, and all the things you don’t take with you when you’re recreating,” Roberts said.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the wind-whipped flames near Slide Rock State Park, including some men and equipment just cleared from the wildfires in San Diego County, California.

“It’s a difficult fire to catch when you have wind-driven and very, very steep terrain,” said Bill Morse of Arizona’s Flagstaff Fire Department. “That’s why we have 15 hotshot crews on order — [because] it’s only the boots on the ground that can really get a fire line all the way up and around this stuff.”

Those hotshot crews are expected in the area Wednesday night and will include firefighters from nearby Prescott, Arizona. Last summer, 19 members of that department’s Granite Mountain hotshots team were killed in the state’s deadliest wildfire ever.

The best way to douse the flames is by air, so several helicopters have been dumping water into deep canyons. One massive air tanker arrived Wednesday.

“The wind and the fuel, the topography, that’s all the challenge,” said Gary Johnson, fire marshal for the Sedona, Arizona, Fire District. “We want to make sure as much as we can…to control where that fire’s going to go. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we can.”

With a bad fire forecast this summer, some are looking at new ways to fight blazes. Australian scientists are working on a way of using the force from a large explosion to, literally, blow away a fire.

This week, the U.S. government announced that it was beefing up its firefighting fleet. Four new planes would be added before what some officials fear will be a catastrophic fire season in the West.

It’s not just Arizona. Red flag warnings were also in effect for parts of New Mexico and Colorado, as well as Alaska. South of Anchorage, Alaska, a wildfire has burned 20,000 acres.

In Arizona, Patsy and Bob Kittredge, owners of a resort in Oak Creek Canyon, said they were waiting to be allowed back.

“They’re not letting us up, at the moment,” Patsy Kittredge said. “We’re hoping to get up in a shuttle…to just get clothes and see the dogs….We’re just in a holding position.”

“It’s home,” Bob Kittredge said. “Everything we own is there.”


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