The Sunset Fire along Interstate 17 between Black Canyon City and Cordes Junction has burned 4,000 acres, the Bureau of Land Management reported Sunday night. According to the Arizona DOT Interstate 17 is now open in both directions.
(Originally published at 3:19 p.m. MDT May 31, 2020)
Still another wildfire has broken out in Arizona. The Sunset Fire was reported around noon Sunday and quickly required the complete closure of Interstate 17.
The fire is 5 miles north of Black Canyon City, 9 miles south of Cordes Lakes, and 24 miles north of Highway 74.
A very rough estimate of the size based on satellite data at 1:50 p.m. MDT on Sunday, is approximately 900 acres.
One flank of the fire has spread into the footprint of the huge Woodbury Fire that blackened over 96,000 acres in June, 2019
(UPDATED at 3:37 p.m. MDT May 31, 2020)
The Tonto National Forest reported at 2:35 p.m. MDT May 31 that the Sawtooth Fire eight miles east of Gold Canyon had burned about 2,500 acres. No structures were threatened.
(To see all articles about the Sawtooth Fire on Wildfire Today, including the most recent, click here)
(Originally published at 9:19 a.m. MDT May 31, 2020)
The greater Phoenix area has been plagued with numerous wildfires over the last two weeks. The Sawtooth Fire (the name could change) is the latest, reported Saturday evening near Coffee Flat east of Apache Junction and 8 miles east of Gold Canyon.
It is burning on lands protected by the state of Arizona and the Tonto National Forest where it has spread into the Superstition Wilderness. A very rough estimate of the size based on heat detected by satellites at 3:30 a.m. Sunday is that the fire has burned at least 600 acres.
The good news, if there can be any about a wildfire, is that it appears to have burned into the footprint of the huge Woodbury Fire that blackened over 123,000 acres in June of 2019. That flank should not be very difficult to suppress if fire managers decide to suppress the fire, but it could still work around to the west, south, and north in fairly rugged terrain.
From the Incident Management Team assigned to the Ocotillo Fire near Cave Creek, Arizona, Sunday morning at 8:37:
There was no new growth reported on the Ocotillo Fire overnight and no new structure loss. There is a lot of heat within the interior and in drainages, therefore crews will monitor and patrol those areas to make sure there is no rekindling. Afternoon winds however, could challenge firefighters again, especially within those drainages.
Overnight, crews provided structure protection to homes and worked to build and secure fire line.
An estimated 500 residences were evacuated on Saturday and those evacuation orders remain in place. An evacuation-area map has been uploaded to this site. The Red Cross has a shelter set up for impacted residents at Cactus Shadows High School. Livestock can be taken to the Cave Creek Memorial Arena.
Today, crews are faced again with hot temperatures, low relative humidity, afternoon winds, and other hazards, including above-ground and underground propane tanks and inaccessible roads.
177 personnel are assigned to the fire from statewide fire departments and districts, including local and federal cooperators. The fire started Saturday afternoon off Ocotillo Road. At least ten structures were lost; unknown if they are primary or secondary or both. Once it is safe enough to do so, crews will make their way back into the area to assess damage.
The fire was determined to be human-caused and the source is under investigation.
(UPDATED at 7 p.m. MDT May 30, 2020)
Here is an updated map of the Ocotillo Fire northwest of Cave Creek, Arizona.
At 5:46 p.m. MDT Arizona State Forestry said in a tweet:
#OcotilloFire at 750 acres. Crews working against hot temps, very day conditions, wind gusts & low RH. In turn, fire is exhibiting signs of extreme fire behavior. @RedCrossAZ set up a shelter at high school. @mcsoaz will have evac info.
This is a very impressive video of a DC-10 dropping on the fire:
Air tankers are coming in low here in Cave Creek as firefighters try to get a handle on a wildfire burning close to town
We will update this article as more information becomes available.
(Originally published at 4:47 p.m. MDT May 30, 2020)
The Marshall’s Office has issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Ocotillo Fire northwest of Cave Creek, Arizona.
Jim Cross, Senior News Reporter at KTAR Phoenix, reported that multiple homes have been damaged and others are threatened. At 2:43 p.m. MDT Saturday Arizona State Forestry said the fire had burned about 350 acres.
Firefighting aircraft that have been seen over the fire include air tankers (RJ85, BAe-146, and DC-10) and helicopters, some of which are obtaining water at a golf course.
Although Australia is no stranger to wildfires, the 2019-2020 season was one of the worst fire seasons on record. Major bushfires began in spring 2019 (June), and by September were stronger, more intense, and more frequent. The fire situation continued to worsen, and by November, Australia requested international assistance to suppress the thousands of fires on the landscape.
Over a span of four months, the United States responded to Australia’s request for firefighters by providing personnel from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service. In total, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provided 11 individuals to assist in suppression efforts.
FWS employees filled important roles, including engine captain, situation officer, aircraft officer, task force leader, fire behavior analyst, division supervisor, planning section chief, operations section chief, air support group supervisor, and public information officer.
“Our mission was to support the Australian government in suppressing the bushfires and keeping the Australian people and communities safe,” said Reynaldo Navarro, Assistant Fire Management Officer, South Texas Refuge Complex. “Our tasks included firing operations, engine support, mopping up or blacking out, hand line construction, hazard tree felling, and structure triage and protection.”
“Being in Australia was a great, yet very humbling experience,” said Kyle Bonham, Engine Captain at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, of his time in Australia.
Although the Australia bushfires brought great destruction and impacts to the country, FWS personnel were welcomed with cheer and open arms.
“What stands out to me are the Australian people,” said Richard Sterry, Fire Management Specialist, Lakewood, Colorado. “I was assigned to a more rural area, and the Australian people were wonderful to work with. They always had smiles on their faces and were constantly going out of their way help us learn their system.”
By mid-February, more than 46 million acres (72,000 square miles) burned since the first fires in June, 2019. Overall, 80 percent of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area in New South Whales, and 53 percent of the Gondwana World Heritage rainforests in Queensland burned.
Fighting bushfires in Australia provided a unique opportunity for FWS firefighters to learn new firefighting skills, as well as hone the skills required to fight fire in the United States. Due to Australia’s location in the southern hemisphere, fire season occurs at a time when much of the U.S. is out of danger of wildfire. Firefighters helping with suppression efforts in Australia were afforded a unique opportunity to polish firefighting skills needed during wildfire season in the U.S.
Kari Cobb is the acting public affairs officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the National Interagency Fire Center.