The Rafael Fire was discovered on June 18, 2021 on the Prescott National Forest, the result of passing predominantly dry thunderstorms. The fire was located in a remote area approximately 4 miles north of Perkinsville had grown to 1,000 acres by the morning of June 20. At this time, the Arizona Central West Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed management of the Rafael Fire. Strong winds on June 20, combined with dry fuels and favorable uphill topography in front of the fire, added nearly 18,000 acres for a total of 18,671 acres. The fire moved 9 ½ miles on June 20 and moved from the origin to above the Rim onto the Kaibab National Forest and into the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area.
On June 21st, the fire added another approximately 5,500 acres to 24,191 acres, and burned actively in Tule Canyon within the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness on the Kaibab National Forest. The fire continued to grow in Sycamore Canyon and on Tuesday, June 22 the fire continued to move east and crossed into the Coconino National Forest. Again, topography and dry fuels drove the fire approximately 7 ½ miles on the 22nd and by Wednesday morning, and by the morning of June 23rd the fire had grown to 34, 949 acres. On the morning of June 24, the Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team 2 led by Incident Commander Dave Bales assumed management of the fire. The fire was returned to the local unit with a Type 3 organization led by Incident Commander Troy Mueller on Friday, July 02 at 0600.