Arizona declares state of emergency for Goodwin Fire
PRESCOTT VALLEY — With conditions worsening for the Goodwin Fire, Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in Yavapai County on Wednesday.
The fire, which sparked last Saturday, had grown to nearly 21,000 acres by Wednesday afternoon and remained about the same as of 10 p.m., according to an update provided by fire management officials.
By Wednesday night, there were 752 fire personnel battling the blaze, a significant increase from the 650 deployed earlier in the day, officials said.
The fire burned at least some structures in its widening path, forcing additional evacuations, officials said.
Early Wednesday, it was too dangerous to assess the damage as winds in the area were expected to gust northerly at 15 to 30 mph, said John Pierson, the incident commander for Goodwin Fire. By late afternoon, the winds seemed to have shifted southward. Officials have said the fire was about 1 percent contained.
The blaze has pushed to the northeast and now threatens the Dewey-Humboldt area to the north, Pierson said. Dewey residents west of State Route 69 from Mayer to Poland Junction were evacuated on Wednesday, along with several other residential areas, Prescott National Forest officials said.
The entire Dewey-Humboldt, an area of about 4,000 people, is on pre-evacuation notice as the fire grows along State Route 69, which remained closed between Interstate 17 and SR 169 near Prescott Valley.
On Tuesday, the town of Mayer was evacuated. By Wednesday morning, the county had seen between 1,500 to 2,000 people evacuated from the Mayer area, said Denny Foulk, the county's emergency manager.
TIME-LAPSE VIDEO: The Goodwin Fire has burned more than 20,000 acres and is 1 percent contained as of June 28, 2017. Rob Schumacher/azcentral.com
Ducey has called the blaze the "top priority" in Arizona and he has cut short a trip to Colorado to help coordinate the state's response to it. He is planning to travel to the area for an in-person briefing Thursday, according to Ducey's staff.
The emergency declaration directs $200,000 of emergency funds to the fire suppression efforts and can help expedite reimbursements for emergency response and recovery costs. It is also needed if federal aid is later requested.
“My office continues to coordinate with state agencies and local emergency response officials with a focus on saving lives, protecting property and making sure evacuees have the shelter and support necessary,” Ducey said in a statement. “This emergency declaration will ensure every necessary resource at the state’s disposal is made available to assist firefighters and provide aid to displaced residents."
The fire claimed at least some structures around Pine Flat, though Pierson said it wasn't clear yet whether that included any residences. He also could not say how many structures were involved.
Because of the unpredictable conditions, Pierson could not say when people could return to their homes in the area.
Pierson emphasized that firefighters are doing what they can while trying to avoid a repeat of the 2013 Yarnell Fire disaster in which 19 firefighters from Prescott died - on June 30 of that year.
"We are not going to put firefighters in danger," he said. "We are going to make smart decisions, when to engage and when to disengage."
Pierson said the blaze involves 40-year-old chaparral that is "conducive to extensive and erratic fire conditions." They have eight helicopters, 23 engines and a DC-10 jet loaded with retardant was evident overhead.
As of Wednesday morning, one firefighter had sustained an injury that was not considered serious, Pierson said.
The main concern Wednesday morning was the Highway 69 corridor, where the blaze had crossed a section, igniting a new but manageable blaze there, Pierson said.
There were 57 people staying at a shelter and several dozen cats, dogs and horses were housed at an animal shelter as well.
Authorities also said fire restrictions would go into effect Friday at Prescott National Forest, which is to the west of the Goodwin Fire.
As the fire has worsened, Ducey canceled his appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival for economic development panel discussions and is returning to Arizona to receive additional briefings on the fire.
That follows a series of tweets Wednesday morning in which the governor said he wanted to assure Yavapai County residents that the state's attention and resources were focused on containing the blaze.
"I want the residents of Yavapai County to know the #GoodwinFire is the state's top priority right now," Ducey tweeted.
"Not only do our hearts go out to those who have been displaced, but our attention & resources are focused heavily on containing the fire. ... My office is receiving real-time updates from @azstateforestry, which is coordinating with local, regional and federal fire officials."
Ducey went on to add that Arizona is "indebted" to the crews managing and fighting the Goodwin Fire and other wildfires burning across the state.