Four large fires burning in Arizona

Map of fires in Arizona 2200 5-13-2012
Map of fires in Arizona 2200 5-13-2012
Map of fires in Arizona 10:00 p.m. MDT, May 13, 2012

(Updated at 12:25 a.m. MDT, May 15, 2012)

At least four large fires are burning in Arizona (see the map above): Gladiator Fire, Sunflower Fire, Bull Flat Fire, and Elwood Fire. From Phoenix, the fires are north, northeast and east of the city. Eight of the eleven large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts are working the fires, leaving only three for the rest of the United States. Aside from the firefighters currently assigned to the fires, an additional ten 20-person Type 1 hand crews have been ordered through the National Interagency Coordination Center to be prepositioned in various locations in the Southwest Geographical Area, comprised of Arizona and New Mexico.

Gladiator Fire
Gladiator Fire, May 14, 2012. Photo by Michelle Fidler, SWIMT

Monday night the following fires were mapped by N144Z, a U.S. Forest Service infrared imaging aircraft: Sunflower, Gladiator, and Elwood. More accurate acreage calculations should be available on Tuesday.

The map below shows Arizona and the smoke that is being created by the fires.

Smoke map Arizona
Smoke map, Arizona, 6:31 p.m. MDT, May 14,. 2012

Below are more details about the fires, supplied by the Arizona Emergency Network and the Southwest Coordination Center.:

Gladiator Fire

  • 36 miles north of Phoenix
  • 1,300 acres; 0% contained
  • Three structures have burned.
  • A Type 1 Incident Management Team (Incident Commander, Joe Reinarz) will assume command of the fire Monday afternoon.
  • The fire is burning in brush, oak, chaparral, and timber. It began as a structure fire Sunday morning in the Bradshaw Mountains one mile east of Crown King, AZ. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Mayer High School, 17300 E. Mule Deer Dr., in Mayer. Logistics support of the fire response has transferred to Prescott dispatch.
  • On Sunday at 4:45 PM, the Incident Command staff ordered mandatory evacuations from the town of Crown King. The designated evacuation center was Mayor High School – 17300 E Mule Deer Drive, Mayer. American Red Cross personnel will be on hand to assist those arriving from Crown King. American Red Cross evacuation information is 928-237-6751. The American Red Cross CANNOT provide information on the fire status or evacuation order specifics. If someone is trying to locate family or friends from the Crown King area, this IS the number to call.
  • On Sunday the fire overran a portion of the Crown King Road making the road inaccessible.
  • Fire behavior: active
  • Cause: Unknown
  • Resources committed on Monday: 3 Type-1 Crews, 4 Type-2 Crews, 11 Engines, 1 Type-1 Helicopter, 1 Type-3 Helicopter, 3 Type-1 Airtankers

Sunflower Fire

  • One mile west of Hwy 87 near Sunflower; 34 miles northeast of Phoenix; 19 miles southwest of Payson
  • 4,600 acres, 0% containment, 257 personnel, 2 helicopters, 3 air tankers
  • The Arizona Central West Zone Type 2 Incident Management Team, Bea Day Incident Commander, assumed command at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. A Type 2 Incident Management Team, Incident Commander Clay Templin, has been ordered.
  • Night shift will continue to burn north on FR 201. Day shift will continue to burn and hold along FR 201. Additional protection for Cross F ranch will be provided. APS power lines (345 KV) are threatened from two directions and will require new strategy. Mazatzal Mining District requires indirect tactics.

Elwood Fire

  • 45 miles E/NE of Globe, AZ.
  • 1,127 acres
  • Information as of 6:00 p.m. MDT, May 13, 2012: moderate fire activity, west flank backing, east flank holding. Type 3 Incident Management Team (Logan, Incident Commander). 108 personnel.

Bull Flat fire

  • 20 miles northwest of Cibecue, AZ; South of Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery
  • Mapped at 1,329 acres Monday night.
  • Location: Fort Apache Indian Reservation and Tonto National Forest
  • A Type 2 Incident Management Team (Incident Commander, John Philbin) is on scene and will inbrief at 1 p.m. on Monday. They will assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Update on May 16, 2012 is HERE.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

12 thoughts on “Four large fires burning in Arizona”

  1. Bill,

    I was wondering if you knew how many air tankers are Heavy tankers and how many are SEATS?

  2. There were 8 “large” federal airtankers that were flying on the AZ fires yesterday:
    AT-05, AT-45, AT-55, AT-12, AT-07, AT-44, AT-43, AT-06.

    All P2Vs or SP2Hs.

    No idea on how many SEATs were flying.

  3. The Tatanka crew trucks went by me a few miles Norht of ther quarters on Wednesday afternoon. They must have been out on project work.

  4. So where are the Canadair water bombers? Don’t these have better cycle times since they don’t have to land to refill?

  5. Tankers currently flying out of PRC (Gladiator Fire)
    6 was not flying today, possibly due to a hydraulic leak it had Saturday, it was parked at the main ramp all day.
    A Columbia Helicopters Civvie Chinook arrived around 6pm.
    A Sikorsky Skycrane has been here for a few hours too, both helos are parked at the West Ramp.

    Ground crews spotted around the Prescott Fire Center
    -BLM Kearn Valley Hotshots
    -Kearn Co FD Rio Bravo Hotshots

    A SEAT was also working on a small (30 acre) fire around Dewey-Humboldt this weekend.


    I doubt the Canadairs would work, at least up here in Prescott, as I don’t think there’s any large bodies of water that are accessible for them to land and refill.

    I will try to keep regular updates on the air tankers and any ground movements I see on and I will try to go out to the airport in the morning to get some pictures before the heat haze rolls in, but I will be out of town for most of the day.

  6. Thanks Felipe G,

    Tanker 06 was flying on the day mentioned. If not on the fire, it must have been a maintenance flight. In all, 8 of the 11 USFS airtankers were in Arizona at some point during the day.

    Interesting to NOTE the lack of federal “large” (Heavy) airtankers on OTHER fires TODAY (yesterday) in NV, UT, and CO (all fires were expanding at last look). SEATs were dispatched to replace LATs.

    Somehow, 11 federal large airtankers (LATs) DOESN’T meet a national mission… nor a “local” (mostly insignificant) fire bust at the absolute least of imagination…


  7. Ken,

    I saw no evidence of it flying, but I guess it could have flown between 1 and 5 pm or so on a post-maintenance checkup. The last thing you want is an engine quitting on takeoff and the subsequent Phos-Chek drop on Willow Creek.

    11 airtankers is by no means enough to cover just the state of Arizona, let alone the other states that are on fire. I feel like it won’t take long for the ANG MAFFS birds to get mobilized as well as the Conair planes. I did plenty of research for my senior design project (an airtanker), and we found plenty of studies from several years back that say the same: the airtanker fleet is ageing, the airplanes are not built for this mission, and the fleet size is inadequate. And I feel that things would be a lot worse if CDF didn’t have its own fleet of S2Fs.

    I don’t know about the specifics of the fires elsewhere, but I feel like a really serious effort is needed to contain the Gladiator fire, because let’s face it: Crown King is 20ish miles from Prescott. Let it spread and then you have the Indian Fire all over again (which coincidentally started 10 years ago today).

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