Campers forced to evacuate Arizona forests due to wildfires

Some are camping in Northern Arizona, but it's not exactly what they had imagined with the wildfires burning in the area, shutting down most national forests in the state.

You can find Pete Vanderbilt in the Flagstaff Walmart parking lot, but not exactly by choice. He was forced to evacuate the Coconino National Forest.

"I was gonna camp for about six weeks out there and then the fire came in and that was it," he said.

Vanderbilt’s camper is one of many setting up outside of the superstore.

He was ready for a camping trip when everyone was displaced by the Raphael Fire, saying, "I’ve seen smoke. Lots of smoke, I mean it filled right up with smoke. The white wood ashes just filled the van. Filled everything."

The fire closed campgrounds and forests, forced evacuations, and burned nearly 40,000 acres as of June 25.

Coconino and Kaibab national forests remain indefinitely closed.

"Really I think all we can hope for is monsoonal moisture at this time. You see the clouds setting up but it’s all a hope right now. Hopefully 4th of July we’ll get rain, keep a close eye on that. And hopefully, we can reopen the forest," said Dave Bales, fire incident commander.

For the people hoping to get out into nature, it might be a while.

"I’ll probably head down around Tucson, maybe into New Mexico. Get out of this area because this is gonna be dead all summer. You can see that," Vanderbilt said.

More than 500 firefighters are battling the flames As this nearly 44,000-acre fire continues to rapidly spread.

Coconino and Kaibab forests remain closed and fire officials are evacuating the community in south Garland Prairie, areas of Sycamore Canyon and south of Forest Service Road. 

Some evacuees from these areas are sheltering at the Sinagua Middle School.

The flames, fire officials say started on the west side of the Prescott National Forest then made their way to Coconino.

Fire officials are urging residents to follow local guidance as firefighters continue to battle this challenging fire.

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