- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

BELLEMONT, Ariz. (AP) - The Latest on closure of Interstate 40 in northern Arizona (all times local):

10:05 a.m.

A Forest Service spokesman says smoke from a prescribed burn conducted by the Kaibab National Forest was present along I-40 in an area of northern Arizona where the freeway was closed for hours and where numerous accidents occurred Wednesday morning.

Forest officials had decided against doing more burning in forested areas between Flagstaff and Williams on Wednesday and Thursday, but agency spokesman Brady Smith says residual smoke from burning Tuesday likely settled along the interstate overnight as temperatures cooled.

The state Department of Public Safety says reduced visibility from smoke caused multiple accidents with minor injuries but that the cause of a three-vehicle fatal accident wasn’t immediately determined.

Smith says there were electronic signs in the area cautioning drivers about the possibility of smoke and says he’s not aware of any missteps by forest officials.

9:30 a.m.

Interstate 40 has reopened west of Flagstaff in northern Arizona after a five-hour closure Wednesday morning because of a fatal accident and smoke in the area.

The highway was closed between Flagstaff and Williams.

The Department of Public Safety says one person was killed in a three-vehicle wreck involving two trucks and a passenger vehicle.

DPS spokesman Bart Graves says there were numerous wrecks with minor injuries in the area due to reduced visibility from smoke from a prescribed burn that it’s too early to say whether the smoke caused the fatal crash.

7:55 a.m.

Authorities say part of Interstate 40 in northern Arizona remains closed because of a fatal accident and smoke in the area.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says eastbound I-40 is closed at Williams and westbound I-40 is closed west of Flagstaff.

The Department of Public Safety says one person was killed in a three-vehicle wreck involving two trucks and a passenger vehicle.

DPS spokesman Bart Graves says there were numerous wrecks with minor injuries in the area due to reduced visibility from smoke from a prescribed burn that it’s too early to say whether the smoke caused the fatal crash.

Williams and Flagstaff are about 35 miles apart. Drivers can take an 80-mile detour on State 64 and U.S. 180. The detour adds about an hour of driving.

6:50 a.m.

The Kaibab National Forest has been conducting prescribed burns in the region of northern Arizona where smoke has caused numerous accidents on Interstate 40 and closed the highway for part of Wednesday morning.

Forest officials said in a statement released Tuesday that they were completing ignitions planned Tuesday but then anticipated delaying the forest rehabilitation work for two days due to weather conditions.

The statement said weather conditions Wednesday and Thursday weren’t expected to be favorable “for fire effects and potential smoke impacts.”

The statement also said smoke from some of the burns would be “very visible” from Interstate 40.

Forest officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment Wednesday morning from The Associated Press.

6:20 a.m.

Authorities say smoke from a prescribed burn caused numerous accidents with minor injuries on Interstate 40 west of Flagstaff early Wednesday morning but that it’s too soon to say whether the smoke also caused a fatal accident in the vicinity.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves says I-40 is closed in both directions at Bellemont, about 13 miles west of Flagstaff. He says the fatal accident occurred near Parks, about seven miles further west.

Graves says DPS is asking motorists to avoid the area until later Wednesday morning and that a Highway Patrol captain at the scene told him the smoke is so thick that visibility is down to about 20 feet.

According to Graves, the fatal collision involved two tractor-trailer rigs and a passenger vehicle.

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