Oak Creek fire consumes 25 acres

A small brush fire just north of Sedona Thursday afternoon briefly closed Arizona 89A and kept U.S. Forest Service and Sedona firefighters busy into the night. The fire was brought under control by noon Friday.

The blaze, dubbed the "Steamboat Fire," consumed approximately 25 acres of the steep, rocky side slope of the canyon on the east side of Oak Creek. Several businesses near the fire took precautionary evacuation measures even though no buildings were actually threatened.

Police officers from the Sedona Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety guided traffic through a temporary detour near the intersection of 89A and Arizona 179. Arizona 89A was closed for a short time through Oak Creek Canyon as was Schnebly Hill Road between Sedona and Interstate 17.

Above, a small squadron of helicopters crisscrossed the skies. Three helicopters and two air tankers helped in the effort and, at even higher altitudes, three television station helicopters from the Phoenix area hovered to photograph the action.

On the streets of Sedona, most shoppers and tourists went about their business unfazed by what was going on just a mile away.

A total of 130 firefighter were involved in battling the blaze, including two Hotshot crews, two Navajo Scout crews, one Flagstaff Fire Department crew, six U.S. Forest Service engines, four Sedona Fire Department engines, and three SFD water tenders.

"Campfire and smoking restrictions were lifted on five Arizona National Forests earlier this week. However, it is imperative that people are always careful with fire," said Hunter Wistrand, fire staff officer for the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests. "Restrictions were lifted because there has been widespread rain across the state and weather forecasts predict increasing humidity levels and more rain showers this weekend."

Officials believe the cause of the fire is human-related but it is still under investigation.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Sedona Fire Department will receive a grant of $50,000 to enhance its fire protection planning in Oak Creek Canyon as part of the National Fire Plan to assist communities at risk from wildfire.

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