Update: wildfires in Arizona – May 16, 2012

Bull Flat Fire, May 12, Ron Morrison
Bull Flat Fire, May 12, 2012. (The date imprinted on the image is incorrect, and should read 05/12/2012). Photo by Ron Morrison

UPDATED 11:41 a.m. MDT, May 16, 2012

We will update the information and the maps of the fires in Arizona throughout the day on Wednesday. Check back for additional information, which is gathered from various sources, including the US Forest Service, Arizona state agencies, and the National Interagency Fire Center.

Arizona fire stats 5-16-2012
Arizona fire stats May 16, 2012
Map of fires in Arizona 0900 5-16-2012
Map of fires in Arizona May 16, 2012


36 miles north of Phoenix, and 8 miles southwest of Mayer. It started as a structure fire in the community of Crown King.

Predicted drier weather and associated strong winds continue to complicate suppression efforts on the Gladiator Fire. Winds from the southeast and south are expected to push the fire north and northwest today.

Fire behavior is expected to be extreme. Firefighters continue working to suppress the fire and provide structure protection to homes. Firefighting resources will focus on perimeter control when they can do so safely. Crews are also working to protect structures and communication sites west of the fire. In areas where direct attack is not feasible, they will focus on protecting individual structures ahead of the fire.

An evacuation order remains in effect for the community of Crown King.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team (Incident Commander, Joe Reinarz) assumed command of the fire Monday afternoon.

Map Gladiator Fire 0800 5-16-2012
Map Gladiator Fire 3:26 a.m. MDT, May 16, 2012

(Additional information and maps about other fires in Arizona is below.)


The fire is located 1 mile west of Hwy 87 near Sunflower; 34 miles northeast of Phoenix; 19 miles southwest of Payson.

Strong winds, shifting from the east to the south greatly influenced the Sunflower Fire yesterday. As anticipated, the fire became very active during the afternoon with as the fire advanced to the north, northwest and west. Several dense pockets of fuel in the fire’s interior burned intensely resulting in three large plumes of smoke. In spite of this, the fire remained within established containment lines.

Actions taken by firefighters on the Sunflower Fire Monday significantly affected the results of suppression efforts Tuesday. When winds shifted Monday, blowing from the northeast, the decision was made to discontinue line preparation along Forest Road 201 and initiate firing operations, taking advantage of the wind to push the burn through the ground fuels into the interior of the fire. This created a wide black line along the perimeter. When the expected wind shift to a south wind occurred yesterday, the fire was prevented from reaching the road. Had these actions not been taken, there is a substantial possibility that the fire would have crossed the road, leaving firefighters no alternative but to move back to State Route 87. With no roads available between FR201 and SR 87, it would have been unsafe to place firefighters in between. The highway and the power lines would have been compromised.

Pushed by the same wind that helped with the black line operation on Monday, the fire moved rapidly to the southwest. It burned up to the seventeen year old fire scar of the Basin Fire and stopped at that point. This same influence may be expected when the Sunflower Fire reaches the scar of the eight year old Willow Fire. The thinner fuels in the fire scars reduces the fire intensity and slows the growth of the fire.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team, Incident Commander Clay Templin, is assigned to the fire.

Sunflower Fire 1100 May 16, 2012
Map of Sunflower Fire 3:26 a.m. MDT May 16, 2012


20 miles northwest of Cibecue, AZ; South of Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery.

On Wednesday, crews will focus on extinguishing hot spots along the fire’s perimeter and construct containment line on the northeast corner of the fire in preparation for a burnout that will help to secure that portion of the line.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team (Incident Commander, John Philbin) is assigned to the fire.

Bull Flat Fire 1100 May 16, 2012
Map of Bull Flat Fire 3:26 a.m. MDT May 16, 2012


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

10 thoughts on “Update: wildfires in Arizona – May 16, 2012”

  1. I assume that whatever failed wasn’t that bad and the maintenance crews were able to get it up and running today.

    From what a friend said, 12 had been parked for a while, they performed a test run on the runway, went back to the ramp, then the plane took off and either declared an emergency as it was coming back or came back after whatever failure they had. I’ll see if it’s flying tomorrow.

    1. Also, I feel like the maintenance crews have been doing a great job. I’ve heard of issues with 3 different planes this week, but they’ve kept the planes in the ground for no more than some 40 hours (06), and well, 45 was only down for the remainder of yesterday, which really was maybe an hour or so. I have no idea when it started flying today, as I started hearing them around 9:30, but I was in class and had no way of knowing if 45 was already up and running, or how long they tested the plane. But it was already flying by around 11 AM (that’s when I had access to a scanner)

      And by “I assume it wasn’t bad”, I assume it was a pretty small thing, as it took them probably less than 15 hours to get the plane ready -away from the maintenance base. So I guess it could have been a broken line inside an engine or a low fluid, nothing as bad as 06’s leak over the weekend.

  2. Airtanker update
    As of 19:20, we had 7, 45 and 55 constantly flying out of PRC. 43 went back to Mesa to support the Sunflower effort.

    Same 3 helicopters, as well as something that looked like might have been a yellow Bell 212 (PHI maybe).

    Tanker 12 made an emergency landing mid-afternoon with the #2 engine off, still parked at the south ramp.

    According to the Phoenix Fire Center twitter, they’re also supporting the Gladiator effort out of Willie.

    1. Thanks Felipe.

      So if 45 was flying today, they must have fixed whatever the problem was that caused the emergency landing yesterday and the fire truck escort down the runway.

  3. I am roughly about 30 mins hwy time from the sunflower fire and possibly 20 miles across terrain from it I watch the smoke every morning. So far no structures are in danger if it turns and jumps the hwy way it could threaten structures. I doubt it will come near Tonto Basin but still has me worried.

  4. The current list of large tankers flying out of Prescott

    I got word that Tanker 5 was available for the Gladiator if needed, and it was flying up from Willie today,

    I did not see 7 fly this afternoon, not sure what the deal was.
    45 came in for an emergency landing somewhere around 6, was escorted down the runway by Prescott FD and taxied to the south ramp with the #2 engine off.

    There’s 3 helicopters: a Civilian Chinook, a Sikorsky Skycrane (Tanker 782) and a Kaman K-Max.

    Also a friend said that there’s a firefighting crew from Illinois here.

  5. Just watched the nightly news. 3.2 minutes on the fires in Arizona. 1.4 minutes of which were air tanker drops. Who said that seven or eight tankers for six major fires wasn’t enough? The Federal fixed wing air tanker program is a tanker pilots dream come true! That is if you have a “seat”. How is that containment looking?


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