The Cellar Fire burning south of Prescott, which increased to nearly 7,300 acres overnight and remained at 0% containment, has several communities preparing for possible evacuation as of Friday morning, according to an update from Prescott National Forest officials.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office ordered the Pine Flat community to be evacuated Thursday afternoon. A shelter was established at Prescott High School for residents of Pine Flat, according to a release from the Prescott National Forest.

Meanwhile, several communities in “Ready” status, which should be prepared for evacuation, include Walker, Groom Creek, Wolf Creek, Potato Patch, Indian Creek and Crown King, according to forest officials.

It’s the first step in the “Ready, Set, Go,” system adopted by Arizona county sheriffs for notifying residents when it’s time to evacuate an area because of wildfires.

Jim Wittington, a public information officer for the Cellar Fire, said “Ready” communities should be paying attention to fire activity. 

He added that residents of affected areas should “be prepared, get things ready to go in an orderly fashion.”

The lightning-caused fire began last Sunday about 16 miles south of Prescott and is moving northeast. 

Forest officials reported that the fire remained active overnight into Friday due to “poor humidity recovery,” and it is expected to increase throughout Friday, especially in areas where “slope and winds align.”

Nearly 370 fire personnel are working to contain the blaze.

Fire crews are working to construct a fireline directly along the fire’s edge on the northwest side. A fireline has already been constructed from the southwest corner to the northeast corner near Deer Spring, and crews are continuing to construct the line northeast to help communities that are farther north, according to forest officials.

“(The) big thing we’re trying to do is cut off the northeast corner because naturally with the wind it wants to move northeast,” Wittington said.


Aerial footage of the Cellar Fire. This footage was taken in the area of North Fork, on the northeastern side of the fire, on July 18, 2019.
U.S. Forest Service – Prescott National Forest

Fire crews are also clearing brush off the Senator Highway on the east side of the fire, according to a fire update. Firefighters are focusing on protecting values at risk, such as private property and buildings around the evacuated and cautioned areas, the update stated.

A closure is in effect for the Prescott National Forest area, including everything south of Wolf Creek, moving south toward Crown King, which does remain open for business, according to forest officials. 

Wittington said humidity is expected to be very low over the next two days, which could increase fire growth.

“We expect the fire to be active this afternoon. We expect it to be active tomorrow afternoon, especially on the south, southeast plank,” he said.

Wittington said that winds from thunderstorms could also cause the fire to increase because the patterns are unpredictable. 

“If we can dodge some thunderstorms and make it into next week with higher humidities, that should really inhibit fire growth,” Wittington said.

About the Cellar Fire

Acres Burned: 7,293 acres.

Percent Containment: 0%.

Started: July 14.

Cause: Lightning.

Where it started: 16 Miles south of Prescott in the Prescott National Forest.

Fuels: Chaparral, manzanita and oak.

Resources: About 370 personnel, including seven hot shot crews. 

Evacuations: On Thursday, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation for the residents in Pine Flat, which is northeast of the fire. A shelter has been set up at Prescott High School. 

What’s expected Friday: Fire activity is expected to increase during the day. There’s a potential of heavier smoke into the weekend. 

Breaking news intern Rocky Baier contributed to this article. 

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