Telescopes survive onslaught by Frye Fire

Frye Fire Mt Graham observatory

Above: Thanks to efforts by firefighters on the ground and in the air the Frye Fire burned around the Mt. Graham Observatory on June 18, 2017.

(Published at 10:37 a.m. MDT June 19, 2017)

The Frye Fire 8 miles southwest of Safford, Arizona burned up to and around the International Observatory on Mt. Graham Sunday.  The site is the home of several very important telescopes, including the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope, & the Submillimeter Telescope.

Saturday afternoon as the fire approached the facility the Incident Management Team ordered 7 large (heavy) air tankers and one very large air tanker. Those firefighters in the air combined with others on the ground prevented any serious destruction of the instruments.

The view from the Mt. Graham Observatory at 10:12 a.m. MDT June 19, 2017, from a webcam at the facility.

Gila Valley Central reported that Eric Buckley, the Director at the Observatory, said, “The fire has come very close. It did come very close to the complex. We may have suffered a little heat damage but no actual fire damage.”

 Mt. Graham Observatory fire
At 9:08 a.m. MDT on Monday fire retardant dropped Sunday afternoon can still be seen by a webcam at the Observatory.

As of 11 p.m. MDT on Sunday the fire had burned almost 10,900 acres, an increase of about 2,000 acres from the day before.

Frye Fire aerial photo
The Frye Fire as seen from an aircraft. It was posted at Inciweb June 18, 2017.

Monday morning the Type 3 Incident Management Team turned the fire over to Alan Sinclair’s Southwest Area Type 2 Team.

The fire is not being fully suppressed, but firefighters are taking action to prevent damage to private land and structures.

The rest of this week the temperature at the lower elevations in the fire area will be over 110 degrees and the relative humidity will be below 10 percent. Monday will be somewhat breezy, but the wind is predicted to exceed 15 mph on Thursday and Friday.

Frye Fire map
Map of the Frye Fire. The white line was the fire perimeter at 11 p.m. MDT June 17, 2017. The red area was the perimeter 24 hours later on June 18.
Frye Fire smoke
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Frye Fire June 19, 2017.

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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.