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Arizona wildfire forces animal shelter, national monument evacuations

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Wildfire causes evacuation in Arizona
  • NEW: 10,000 acres burned in northern Arizona
  • At least 748 properties evacuated, including homes, animal shelter and 2 national monuments
  • Red Cross has set up a shelter at a middle school
  • A lesser wildfire, the Hardy Fire, also struck Flagstaff area this weekend

(CNN) -- Fueled by hot, dry conditions, a wildfire near Flagstaff in northern Arizona grew to 10,000 acres, city officials said late Monday.

The blaze spread so quickly, it caught some locals off guard. Flagstaff city spokeswoman Kimberly Ott said the source of the fire was an abandoned campfire.

The Schultz Fire ignited late Sunday morning, shutting down part of U.S. Route 89 and causing the Coconino County Sheriff's Office to evacuate at least 748 properties, including two residential neighborhoods, an animal shelter and the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. The sheriff's office is recommending that nearby residents put together evacuation kits.

"It's something that unless you've lived through it, I don't think you can imagine," evacuee Patti Vorhees told CNN affiliate KTVK as she packed up her pets and left. "You literally take your prescriptions, your animals and the clothes on your back."

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Mount Elden Middle School in Flagstaff.

The Coconino County website says the U.S. Forest Service and several fire departments responded with about 300 firefighters, eight air tankers and five helicopters to put out the blaze. A Type One Incident Management Team also was sent to the scene. The U.S. Fire Administration website says that's a self-contained team of 35 to 50 highly trained personnel deployed to manage incidents of "national significance."

High winds in the area Sunday didn't help. The winds both stoked the flames and caused emergency crews to ground the air tankers for 5 1/2 hours Sunday afternoon. CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said gusty southwesterly winds, from 20 to 30 mph, will blow through the area through Tuesday, then calm by Wednesday morning. There's a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area beginning on Thursday, Morris said.

Government fire spokesman Eric Neitzel told CNN affiliate KPHO that higher humidity and lower temperatures overnight allowed firefighters to "make some good progress on the line" and protect structures.

Video: Arizona wildfire raging
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KTVK's website,, says authorities shut down part of Highway 89 Sunday because of visibility issues, as the Schultz Fire was producing a huge plume of smoke that could be seen for miles. But by Monday morning, Neitzel told KPHO the cooperative overnight weather, including calmer winds, were making the smoke "[lay] down ... so you don't see the big tower of smoke."

The Schultz Fire was the second large wildfire to break out in the Flagstaff area this weekend. The Hardy Fire started early Saturday afternoon. But the Hardy Fire is much smaller, at 300 acres, and firefighters have been able to contain 30 percent of it.

The Flagstaff Fire Department initially had ordered evacuations of two neighborhoods and the Cococino Humane Society because of the Hardy Fire, but those evacuation orders have been rescinded, said the Coconino County website.