Monsoon horizon

Above: Monsoon storm clouds lined the southern horizon over the White Mountains Tuesday afternoon. This view is of SR77, near Shumway, looking south.

WHITE MOUNTAINS — There are plenty of reasons to rejoice over the start of monsoon rains, and though the outlook for more rain for the rest of July is high, the state is still in a severe drought. Fire restrictions may not be lifted until next week.

The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff said in their weekly update on July 9 that rainfall amounts for the next 7 days area forecasted between 1.5 inches and three inches for the Mogollon Rim. There is also an increased chance of above normal precipitation for the rest of this month.

In the latest U.S. Drought Monitor issued July 5, exceptional drought persists over the northern half of Apache, most of Navajo, northwest Gila and extreme southeast Yavapai and Coconino counties. This includes the communities of Winslow, Ganado, Chinle and Payson. The remainder of northern Arizona is in severe to extreme drought. Ninety-seven percent of the state is in severe drought or worse.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests will not lift the fire restrictions until next week — if there is significant rain — said Iris Estes, Public Affairs Officer. There has been rain in many areas, but not everywhere.

Catrina Jenkins, emergency management director for Navajo County, had a similar message this week for the Navajo County Board of Supervisors.

“We’re transitioning right now,” she told the board of supervisors Tuesday. Jenkins said she was pleased to learn that forest fuels energy release components — a measurement of how dry fuels are — are finally dropping below the 90th percentile on the Mogollon Rim.

Plus, she said that lightning-sparked fires have also cropped up, but they have remained small. Two fire started Monday — the 90-acre Chev Fire is burning in rugged terrain in Chevelon Canyon about 21 miles northwest of Heber/Overgaard. The Chediski Fire is at approximately 150 acres and is burning in the Rodeo-Chedeski burn scar on the Fort Apache Reservation about 15 miles northwest of Cibecue.

Estes said at least six or seven lightning-caused fires started over the past weekend, but had no further information.

Meanwhile, other national forests in the region have ended fire restrictions and opened closed areas.

The Coconino National Forest lifted all fire restrictions and opened all areas that were temporarily closed on Wednesday. The Tonto National Forest lifted two area closures and stepped Down to “elevated” Stage 1 fire restrictions on Wednesday as well.

Jenkins said the White Mountain Fire Restriction Coordinating Group recommended that areas outside the national forests remain in Stage 3 fire restriction, for now. Several years ago the towns, cities and two counties in the White Mountains agreed to coordinate fire restrictions together to prevent any confusion. They will all lift restrictions at the same time.

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