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Thu, Oct. 17

Fire marshal calls for caution after two wildfires Wednesday

A local fire marshal warned the public to be extra cautious with flames after two local residents accidentally ignited wildfires Wednesday.

One person started a wildfire north of Prescott Valley while welding, and another person ignited a wildfire while illegally burning trash on the west side of Prescott Valley near Highway 69.

Central Yavapai Fire District Fire Marshal Charlie Cook noted that it's illegal to burn any trash in areas of the state where commercial trash pick-up services are available.

A man who was burning paper trash in a 55-gallon drum ignited the small wildfire near Highway 69 in the Diamond Valley subdivision, Cook said.

Some of the trash blew out of the barrel and ignited a straw-bale archery target, and then the flames spread into heavy brush. It spawned numerous 911 calls from Highway 69 travelers, Cook said.

"There was a lot of potential there" for the wildfire to run out of control, Cook said. Luckily, firefighters helped it stay smaller than an acre.

The National Weather Service reported maximum steady wind speeds of 22 mph Wednesday at the Prescott airport, with gusts reaching 30 mph. The relative humidity was as low as 13. Several red-flag days with extreme wildfire potential have occurred over the past week.

Cook would have advised against welding Wednesday, or any time winds exceed about 10 mph.

People can obtain permits from local fire departments to burn grass and piles of woody material, but they must get pre-approval from the fire agency on the day of the planned burn. Fire officials won't give the go-ahead on windy days.

Sparks from the welding ignited grass in the Antelope Meadows subdivision fire Wednesday. The fire burned about 10 acres before firefighters stopped it, but it didn't damage any structures, Cook said.

He reminded people that welding sparked the destructive La Barranca Fire in 2006 that burned several Village of Oak Creek homes in eastern Yavapai County.

The Central Yavapai District encompasses 165 square miles and much of it contains grasslands that now are dried out and ripe for fast-moving wildfires, Cook said.

Wildfires already are burning easily in heavier fuels such as brush and pine trees, too, he added.

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com

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