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Updated May 22, 2014 - 9:04 am

Forest official: Avoid Sedona over holiday weekend

In this photo released by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, flames from a wildfire rise over a ridge behind the popular Slide Rock State Park Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Ariz., Tuesday, May 20, 2014. About 200 firefighters and other personnel are already assigned to the 450-acre Slide Fire, including five Hotshot crews, Coconino National Forest officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Public Safety, Carrick Cook)

PHOENIX -- If you plan on heading to the Sedona area this weekend, you may want to make alternate plans.

"We don't anticipate that area or (U.S. Route) 89A opening up for the long holiday weekend," said Brady Smith, Coconino County Forest public affairs officer. "We would hope people would steer clear of that area. There's just going to be a lot of smoke in Flagstaff and a lot of smoke in that area."

The Slide Fire, which ignited Tuesday afternoon near Sedona, Ariz., has spread rapidly due to strong winds. By noon Wednesday, the fire had already reached 4,500 acres with zero percent containment.

"The winds aren't supposed to really die down too much until probably late, late [Thursday]," Smith explained. "I know we're expecting a lower pressure system to come in later in the evening and then set up Friday and Saturday. That will help us out."

Triple-A Arizona offered up some tips for the thousands of Arizonans projected to drive to their Memorial Day weekend destination:

Continue to monitor the situation closely.

If you have plans to visit the area, check with your hotel or campground to see how guests are being advised.

Be aware of cancellation policies. Most hotels and resorts may be flexible with cancellation policies in events like this.

If you do plan to go anyway, be aware of road closures. Highway 89A is currently closed between Sedona and Flagstaff. AZ 5-1-1 provides the most current information.

If the Slide Fire ruins your plans, Triple-A Arizona's Michelle Donati has some Plan B destinations in mind.

"Jerome, Pine, Strawberry, Payson, Greer -- all are great alternatives," she said.

She also recommended staying even closer to home.

"We've seen a number of Valley resorts start unloading their 'staycation' specials for those who live in Arizona, and these are some of the nicest resorts in the country," Donati added.

Of the more than 718,000 Arizonans expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend, Triple-A had projected that 87 percent will drive.

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About the Author


School: Milligan College (Johnson City, TN)

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: May 2008

Favorite sports memory: Houston Rockets 1995 Championship run/2006 Rose Bowl when Vince Young scored a late touchdown to beat USC for the National Championship

Favorite all-time athlete: Hakeem Olajuwon/Warren Moon (legitimate tie)

Favorite sports movies: Major League/Bull Durham

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