PRESCOTT, Ariz. – The Crooks Fire in Arizona is growing, burning more than 8,000 acres as thick, dry vegetation and gusty winds make containment efforts challenging.
The fire in Prescott National Forest started on April 18 and at one point it was 22% contained and is now down to 20%. The size of the fire has more than doubled over the last three days.
"We're definitely seeing acreage gained," said Angela Goldman, a spokeswoman for the Crooks Fire response team.
The trouble crews are running into is on the remote south end of the fire due to its steep and rocky location making access inaccessible.
There are nearly 750 men and women battling the blaze just in Prescott National Forest. The terrain is extremely rugged and difficult to maneuver through.
It has been challenging for firefighters to get to some of those spots where the fire is scorching the mountain hills.
"There are about 22 houses in there. A handful of them we can't even get an engine into to assist those folks and do things. We can't get our trucks up there. We can't get water up there. It's a pretty devastating kind of situation," wildfire fighter Darrell Willis said.
Fire managers can get to the burning areas with aviation, but it's the boots on the ground that stop it.
"And until we can get folks into there, into that inhospitable terrain, we're not going to get it stopped," Goldman said.
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Meteorologists are monitoring the weather situations in the area. Dry conditions over the fire show afternoon humidity dropping into the single digits. Continued poor humidity recovery will increase the fire behavior with winds out of the south gusting up to 30 mph.
"We've got these very dry conditions that get these very windy conditions and those are going to continue on Wednesday and Thursday," incident meteorologist Robert Rickey said.
Crews continue to direct line construction south of Lookout Mountain towards Ash Creek and from Moscow Peak west to Senator highway. Firefighters also are working to strengthen and improve the northern and eastern flanks of the fire.
Fortunately, a lull in the winds is expected on Friday and Saturday. Firefighters are likely to see an increase in those southwest winds again Sunday into early next week.
Tuesday was also a very active situation in the forest as multiple teams were deployed in an attempt to remove debris from the ground. Heavy machinery in the hills, about 6,000 feet in altitude, hit the forest floor, taking up debris and part of the trees in order to remove what could become fuel for the flames as it comes in.
The idea is they want to get everything off the forest floor so that if the fire does make its way into the different pockets, it does not create the situation to become even more intense.
Residents in the area should be aware of increasing smoke conditions due to winds out of the south.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department has lifted some evacuations for portions of North Walker Road. Residents can click here to see if they are eligible to return home.
A community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Embry Riddle University in the Hanger, 3700 Willow Creek Dr., in Prescott. The meeting will be live-streamed here.