Residents of Flagstaff, Ariz. have been placed on high alert as the Pipeline fire rages near their communities. Hundreds of people have been forced to leave their homes, with thousands more told to prepare to evacuate. The area is a popular place to live and train for elite athletes due to the high elevation (around 2,133m or 7000 feet). The Pipeline fire was preceded this year by several other blazes, including the Tunnel fire, which also caused evacuations and resulted in over 19,000 acres burning.
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Many Canadian athletes live or spend time at training camps in the Flagstaff area, and we spoke to Canadian half-marathon record holder Rory Linkletter. Linkletter and his family have been evacuated, and he explained: “Flames were about 1km from our home. Water trucks were parked in our neighbourhood ready to fight fire from our street and protect structures.” Linkletter added that it was the second fire in the last few months within a mile of his home.
The Pipeline fire was reported on Sunday, and as of Monday afternoon, over 5,000 acres of brush and forest had burned. The Cococino National Forest reported that two additional fires, the Haywire and Double fires, are now being fought within the same area. Firefighters have been working diligently to suppress the fires and keep them from entering the nearby communities, and temporary shelters have been designated for both people and animals.
May be a knee jerk reaction because I’m currently evacuated from my home, but any altitude training spots that don’t burn easy???
— Rory Linkletter (@ThePapaLinks) June 13, 2022
Strong winds and warm weather have made containing the fires particularly challenging. Linkletter said that fires this year had been worse than anticipated. His family includes pets and his 10-month-old son, Jason, which add challenges to being evacuated.
Linkletter added, “Last fire people were evacuated for just under a week, and we would love to get home as soon as possible. I just hope our home and everyone else’s is safe and we can come home to some normalcy. It’s obviously stressful to have the uncertainty and feel so hopeless.”
Matthew Riser, 57, was arrested on Sunday in connection to the fires. Riser admitted to burning toilet paper and placing it under a rock, saying he hadn’t seen the “no campfire” signs. The Pipeline fire is named after a popular hiking trail and Riser had been camping in the area.
Linkletter expressed some optimism about the weather in the next few days. “The wind is supposed to die down tomorrow, and rain is possible on Saturday,” he said.
Olympian Jenny Simpson narrowly missed losing her house in Boulder, Co. last year in another wildfire. Boulder is another very popular city for runners to live or train, and the Marshall fire destroyed over 1, 000 homes and 6,000 acres.