Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, May 08

Fire causes panic in Flag

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Several neighborhoods in west Flagstaff were evacuated June 14 including Woody Mountain Campground, Kit Carson RV/Mobile Home Park, Pine Springs, Railroad Springs, Hidden Hollow, Dunnam Road and Wildwood Hills Mobile Home Park. The following day the fire was 100 percent contained, residents returned to their homes and Woody Mountain Road opened to public at 3 p.m. on June 16. Fire crews continued mopping up and monitoring the fire through the weekend. The cause of fire has been determined to be a spark from a blown steel-belted radial tire.)

FLAGSTAFF ----Residents in west Flagstaff first noticed the smoke, as they were getting ready to fix dinner on June 14. In a small trailer park off of Old Route 66 just a mile and a half from the fire, children sat on bicycles and watched the smoke rise -- in fact, in that small neighborhood the children were the ones who roused the adults.

Randi Sandoval's children Amber and Joshua told her about the smoke. After a look out of her kitchen window, Sandoval ran to the living room to turn on the television to see if there was information on the news--and the power went out.

Sandoval went outside to mingle with neighbors who were in varying states of mind -- from total calm to panic.

Her neighbor in a lot across from her began carrying things from his trailer and placed them in his pick-up truck.

Sandoval actually received news on the fire by calling her stepfather in Tuba City and passed it on.

At the police barrier on Route 66, people desperate to gain entry to their homes or to check on housebound relatives and pets pleaded with law enforcement to allow them passage.

The inability to get an update on the status of the fire -- led many Flagstaff residents into a panic state.

But five minutes at the roadblock revealed that law enforcement staff was working hard to ensure that anyone who needed in to check on a loved one gained access.

Rides were commandeered for people from other residents who wanted access -- this allowed law enforcement to keep ingoing traffic at a minimum. A woman whose sister was at home on oxygen was allowed through on her own.

Closer to town employees of various businesses stood outside in the parking lot watching the fire. A man who had been at the Woody Mountain Store with his family said that he actually saw the fire approaching -- becoming an instant celebrity in that particular parking lot.

At the Maverick Store on 66, a woman straddling an ATV cried quietly.

Time among the onlookers took on a surreal quality as water bombers and helicopters circled in the unnaturally dark sky -- disappearing from view as though they'd entered a storm cloud.

People sat on corners, rooftops and truck beds to watch. But two hours into the excitement it became clear that the quick action of firefighting teams both in the air and on the ground had lessened the danger.

Amazingly, despite high winds reaching 30 and 50 mph gusts, the fire seemed to have made little progress across the highly wooded area.

By 7 p.m., many residents who had run from Sandoval's trailer park were returning to their trailers, clearly relieved that they still had a home -- and power had been established there.

This led adults inside to watch the fire coverage on Channel 2 -- the kids, who had clearly enjoyed the excitement and scare, remained outside watching the sky as planes sailed low above them.

"Here comes another one," Amber called from her perch on the roof with her father.

Another small child walked up and announced in that matter-of-fact tone of the very young, "We almost burned up."

Having said that, she trotted off to join another group of children.

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