Fire Prevention Efforts Caused Museum Fire In Flagstaff

By Laurel Morales
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 9:08am
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 9:14am

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Museum Fire
Laurel Morales/KJZZ
The Museum Fire near Flagstaff.

The Forest Service says a Flagstaff wildfire was caused by an excavator striking rock during efforts to prevent fires. The Museum Fire burned 1,961 acres in July and cost $9 million to control.

“It’s unfortunate that the Museum Fire started as the result of ongoing restoration work designed to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire and improve forest health and resiliency—especially in the Flagstaff area where citizens joined together to invest resources to help fund the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project,” Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West said. “Fortunately, some of the restoration work that had been completed previously in and around the wildfire area actually helped stop the fire from becoming larger and more destructive.”

Analysis shows 50% of the fire burned at low severity, 38 percent at moderate and 12 percent of the area burned at high severity.

Fire investigators say rock strikes are possible during steep slope thinning projects and all proper equipment inspections had been conducted. The last piece of equipment was used 14 hours prior to the first report of fire, and the operator had completed a one-hour fire watch before leaving the job site.

In 2012 Flagstaff voters approved a $10 million bond in support of the wildfire prevention project, which requires helicopters to haul off felled trees. 

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