Crooks Fire in Yavapai County: What to know about the wildfire, safety orders

The Crooks Fire burning in the Prescott National Forest prompted evacuation orders for some communities. The fire was discovered Monday, April 18 around 10 a.m. It sparked about two miles north of Palace Station, just off Senator Highway.  

The fire has burned 9,402 acres, and officials believe it was human-caused. Containment is at 96%. More than 100 firefighting personnel are battling the fire.

Evacuation orders

All evacuations have been lifted.

Closures

There are roadblocks on the following roads:

  • Wiggler Road
  • Big Bug Mesa

Recreational sites that are closed include:

  • Trails in the Spruce Mountain and Groom Creek areas
  • Trails south of Prescott and Prescott Valley, southwest of Dewey-Humboldt, west of Poland Junction and Mayer, east of Wilhoit, and northwest of Walnut Grove

An American Red Cross shelter has been set up at the Yavapai College Fitness Center. The Red Cross is looking for donations of food and water for humans and animals.

More information on warnings, evacuations and how to prepare for wildfire activity, click here.

Stay up to date on the fire here https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8067 and hear about the latest community updates at https://www.facebook.com/PrescottNF.

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Crooks Fire (Photo: W.V. Media)

Timeline of the Crooks Fire

May 16

Officials say they do not expect to make any more updates on this wildfire unless there are "significant changes in fire activity."

"Firefighters are nearing completion of the suppression repair work, hazardous tree removal, and road mending," forestry officials said. "Patrolling and securing the perimeter of the fire will continue for the next several weeks as interior fuels continue to burn and smolder."  

May 12

APS and fire management crews are surveying the burn scar left behind by the fire.

During the survey, APS crews tagged burned trees that are next to power lines, in order to avoid any more hazards.

"We work year-round to mitigate the risk to the power line, and create defensible space. It is a year-long process," said Wade Ward with APS Fire Mitigation.

"If we can button this up and go to the next one that is going to pop up, that helps us manage those suppression resources better," said Russ Shumate with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
 

May 8

May 6

May 5

All communities affected by the fire have been returned to READY status. The fire is now 96% contained.

May 3

May 2

May 1

April 30

April 29

April 28

Strong winds are once again proving to be a challenge for more than 740 crew members battling the Crooks Fire, which has burned over 9,000 acres and is 23% contained. The area is rugged terrain in the Prescott National Forest.

The unpredictable winds mixed with the dry weather conditions are making it another dangerous day for firefighters on the front lines.

A community meeting was held at 6 p.m. at Embry Riddle University in the Hanger at 3700 Willow Creek Drive, Prescott. The event was streamed live on the Prescott National Forest's YouTube channel.

Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes said they are aware of six structures being damaged so far, but they are still unsure of what they are, and the extent of the damage.

"Part of our repopulation is as soon as we can get up there safely to do these evaluations, the personal will lead us into that, show us where they are, we will find out who owns them and we’ll notify those people first," said Sheriff Rhodes.

During the meeting, the third of its kind since the fire broke out 10 days ago, some people expressed concerns for their property.

"We seen people pack up and leave places like down the Valley, and we wonder if that’s going to happen to us, if we’re going to get called up and say ‘you gotta pack everything you have. You’ve got 15 minutes and you got to leave,’" said Ron Amerson.

Amerson, who lived in the Lower Prescott Valley for 15 years, is not in the area of evacuation. He said so far, people have been dealing with a lot of smoke in the area.

"It’s the first time it’s gotten very nasty, as far as the smoke," said Amerson. "One of the things we do is look at the mountains that we live near, and lately, we haven’t been able to see it."

ADEQ's wildfire smoke forecast: Officials say an active smoke plume from the fire could be seen moving to the northeast, reaching as far as the Four Corners area.

"Overnight, light to moderate smoke impacts should again be possible for Prescott and Prescott Valley as smoke settles into the area. Smoke will also drain to the south towards Wickenburg again. Tomorrow, incoming high pressure will shift transport winds to out of the northwest. Now, smoke is expected to disperse to the southeast throughout the day. Whether or not smoke is able to move over the Phoenix Valley will depend on fire activity."

Click here for more wildfire smoke forecast updates.

April 27

The fire grew to more than 8,000 acres overnight after wind gusts of more than 25 miles per hour blew through the region, forestry officials said.

"On Tuesday, a combination of southerly winds and difficult terrain hampered firefighting efforts," according to authorities with the Prescott National Forest.

April 26

"[On April 25] during the afternoon, terrain driven winds pushed the fire further south and west, resulting in increased fire growth and acreage," read a statement released by USDA officials on April 26.

April 25

Firefighters are working to protect the historic Stagecoach Stop Cabin. They used heat-resistant foil to prevent the fire from spreading to and burning down the landmark.

Containment for the fire is now at 22%, according to Inciweb. 3,914 acres have burned.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office released a list of streets in the area that are open for evacuated residents to return home on Monday, beginning at 3 p.m.

"Only residents with homes on the list of streets [listed below] will be allowed to return home.  All others are still in evacuated status. Residents may return to their homes via Walker Rd at the south entrance at Lynx Lake.  All other entrances to the area remain closed," stated YCSO officials in a Facebook post.

  • East Herrin Hollow
  • South Big Bug Mesa
  • South Minnie Mine
  • South Randys
  • South Walker
  • Accidental
  • Bernie Mine
  • East Bald Mountain
  • East Bank Vault
  • Easy Cayuga
  • East Charcoal Kin
  • East Eagle
  • East Gold Pan
  • East Goliah
  • East Grasshopper
  • East Heavenly Heights Loop
  • East Mary May
  • East Mohawk
  • East New State
  • East New Strike
  • East Pine Mountain
  • East Pink Car
  • East Renegade Hill
  • East Rupert
  • East Sheldon
  • East Walker
  • King Pin
  • South Bill Cody
  • South Blue Jay
  • South Crown
  • South Dahlin
  • South Eureka
  • South Golden Dollar
  • South Golden Fleece
  • South Good Hope
  • South Hideaway Ridge
  • South Knapp Gulch
  • South Old Walker
  • South Potter
  • South Transcendant
  • Walker
  • Yellow Dog

April 24

Air tankers and helicopters dropping water and retardant have helped slow the fire's growth. Containment is now at 15%.

April 23

A community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on April 24 at Embry Riddle University. Watch it on Facebook or on YouTube.

April 22

April 21

The Crooks Fire has grown to 2,356 acres.

April 20

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Yavapai County officials believe it is human caused.

The Crooks Fire has burned about 1,600 acres and is 0% contained.

Regional investigators will arrive Friday to look for more evidence, and there's been no word yet on whether any buildings have been burned.

Several evacuees are staying at nearby hotels, and one couple said they packed up as much as they could - including their pets - before they ran out.

"We have a cat, a dog, bunnies and I have chickens," said one resident. "They are all dispersed at different places, but we have the bunny and the cat because they are the most precious."

Many homeowners also gathered for tonight's community meeting.

Sheriff's deputies have been going door to door to make sure everyone has evacuation as firefighters began clearing brush and other potentially flammable items. One homeowner could see them on his Ring security camera removing firewood away from his deck.

Crews say Tuesday's Red Flag Warning and gusty winds set them back and grounded air attack efforts, but they had a productive day Wednesday and do not expect any further evacuations into the evening.

However, they're expecting the wind to make it difficult to attack the fire. Anything over 30 miles per hour can ground air attacks.

"It's been unprecedented what we see out there in the United States for the last 10 years or so and the kind of fire we are experiencing," said Rocky Oplinger with the Southern California Interagency Incident Management. "This is very early to have this kind of fire behavior, we are worried about the winds."

April 19

Firefighters battled a wildfire in a sparsely populated area of the Prescott National Forest about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Prescott.

Cory Carlson, the incident commander with the Prescott National Forest, said late Tuesday afternoon the high winds have been the biggest challenge, sending embers into the air that sparked new spot fires near State Route 261, along with the demand for crews at other fires.

"We do have a lack of resources," he said. "There’s a lot of fires in the region."

Some areas were evacuated, and a shelter was set up at Yavapai College. Carlson appealed to residents to abide by evacuation orders.

The cause of the 600-acre (2.4 square-kilometer) wildfire was under investigation.

Jesse Csincsak has a second home close to the Crooks Fire and says he found out about the fire first on social media, and then immediately turned on his Ring Doorbell camera.

"In your head you're thinking, do I rush up there? Do I get these valuable things that I have up there? Then you start scratching your head about the insurance side of it," Csincsak said. "I did just have somebody Ring our doorbell up there just a minute ago … it didn’t look smokey yet, which is really good news. But I was just watching the news and we have a ton of wind coming in this week due to this high-pressure system that’s over us. Wind is terrible for fires, right."

He’s one of the dozens of homeowners waiting and watching to see what happens to their properties.

Julia Daniel has a second home in the Mountain Pine Acres community.

"This is our 9th summer and I think there's only been one or two summers where we haven't had a fire nearby. Its like Russian Roulette every year and this one I’ve been really calm all afternoon but a few hours ago about an hour ago, I saw that the fire had grown to 500 acres and I had a meltdown. This one seems very, very real," Daniel said.

As night falls, crews head out in full force to tackle the fire and help keep their homes safe.

"Every summer you just kind of hold your breath, but usually you're not even holding your breath until May, so this is early," Daniel said.

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