Arizona firefighters are staffing engines and hand crews in Australia

BLM Arizona Koreena Haynes
BLM Arizona’s Koreena Haynes (1st on left) is assisting in Australia as an Engine Boss. BLM photo.

PHOENIX – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well as other Department of the Interior agencies and the U.S. Forest Service have been sending wildfire personnel from across the United States to assist with ongoing wildfire suppression efforts in Australia. The BLM in Arizona currently has four fire personnel in Australia with plans to send more in the coming weeks.

Brady Shultz, from BLM Arizona’s Colorado River District in Kingman, and Koreena Haynes from the BLM Arizona State Office in Phoenix, deployed just after the new year to assist on fire engines in the Australian state of Victoria. Cody Goff from BLM Arizona’s Arizona Strip District in St. George, Utah, and John Garrett from BLM Arizona’s Gila District in Safford deployed on January 7 as part of a 20-person firefighter hand crew.

“Australia has come to help us when we needed an extra hand during our most extreme fire seasons, now it’s our turn to go help them in their time of need,” said Kelly Castillo, BLM Arizona’s state fire management officer.

Based on requests from the Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, the U.S. has intermittently deployed more than 150 wildland fire personnel since December.

The fire personnel from the U.S. have assisting with critical needs for mid-level fire management roles including fire engine operations, aviation operations, fire operations managers, logistical management specialists, and strategic fire planners. More recent deployments have included requests for 20-person firefighting crews and chain saw operators.

“We are in the process of filling more requests for Arizona personnel, which will likely deploy as soon as next week,” said Castillo.

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging fire assistance for more than 15 years. The most recent exchange occurred in August of 2018, when 138 Australian and New Zealand wildfire management personnel were sent to the U.S. for almost 30 days to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Northern California and the Northwest. The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

BLM Arizona Brady Shultz
BLM Arizona’s Brady Shultz (1st on left) is assisting in Australia as an Engine Boss. BLM photo.

From the Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Office

Veteran-focused BLM crew in Arizona certified as a Hotshot Crew

Above: Aravaipa Hotshots. BLM photo.

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Gila District announced September 27, 2019 that the Aravaipa Veterans Fire Crew has achieved certification as an Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC). Of the 13 BLM IHCs nationwide, the Aravaipa Veterans Interagency Hotshot Crew is the only BLM-funded hotshot crew in Arizona, and only one of two BLM IHCs in the nation focused on recruiting and developing veterans.

“We’re proud of the Aravaipa Crew’s accomplishments and the continued efforts to develop a workforce of Veterans,” said Gila District Manager Scott Feldhausen. “This hard working and highly skilled crew is now a part of the elite fire resources available to fight fires not only in Arizona, but nationally and abroad.”

Aravaipa Hotshots logoInteragency Hotshot Crews are the most highly trained and experienced type of hand crews and they must meet and maintain stringent requirements to achieve the IHC status. Their primary mission is to provide a safe, professional, mobile response to all phases of fire management and incident operations. IHCs are staffed, conditioned, equipped and qualified to meet a variety of strategic and tactical wildland fire assignments, and they are typically relied upon for the most challenging fire assignments. When not committed to fire assignments, IHCs provide a workforce to accomplish a variety of resource management objectives while maintaining availability for incident mobilization.

In 2016, the BLM Arizona fire organization requested that the Aravaipa Veterans Crew begin the process to be certified as an IHC. Over the subsequent two years, the Aravaipa Veterans Crew took steps, including multiple fire deployments across the West, to meet the IHC requirements before being formally certified at the national level.

The Aravaipa Veterans IHC will provide an opportunity for veterans to work in a team environment and build skills and experience. Team members will also learn about opportunities to work for and become competitive for employment with the Federal Government in other natural resource arenas.

Information and Photos of Aravaipa Veterans IHC are available at:

Submitted by the BLM

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Smoke from Whiskey Fire predicted to impact Flagstaff

smoke forecast Flagstaff Whiskey Fire
Near surface smoke forecast for 6 p.m. MDT September 13, 2019. Click to enlarge.

(9:52 a.m. MDT September 13, 2019)

Forecasts predict that smoke from the Whiskey Fire 10 miles southwest of the Flagstaff Airport will move into the city Friday afternoon. (see maps)

Thursday and Thursday night the wind from the east and northeast moved smoke from the fire off to the southwest but that direction is predicted to change shortly after noon Friday to come from the south and southwest, pushing the smoke into the Flagstaff area. If the fire activity continues on Saturday the smoke is expected to continue to impact the city.

smoke forecast Flagstaff Whiskey Fire
Near surface smoke forecast for 6 p.m. MDT September 14, 2019, assuming significant activity on the fires continues.

The Whiskey Fire started September 2 on the Coconino National Forest and is being managed rather than completely suppressed. Thursday firefighters began conducting firing operations along Forest Road 231 to ensure the wildfire stays in its containment area. Today, Friday, the plan is to moderate but continue the firing operations through the weekend, according to information released by the Forest Service.

The agency said smoke may affect Flagstaff, Munds Park, Mountainaire, Kachina Village, Forest Highlands, Doney Park, Mormon Lake Village, Highway 89A Corridor, Sedona, Village of Oak Creek, and portions of Interstate 40.

The fire has burned 3,500 acres.

map whiskey fire flagstaff arizona
Map showing heat detected by a satellite during an overflight at 3:24 a.m. MDT September 13, 2019.
Whiskey Fire
Whiskey Fire. Forest Service photo distributed September 13, 2019.

Smoke from wildfires in Arizona spreads into New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma

smoke Arizona wildfires
Forecast for the distribution of near surface and vertically integrated smoke from wildfires, at 2 p.m. MDT August 22, 2019. Click to enlarge.

Smoke from wildfires in Arizona is spreading east into New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Three central Arizona fires total over 14,000 acres

Sheridan, Boulin, and Saber fires, all within 70 miles of Flagstaff

maplocation of wildfires Arizona Sheridan Saber wildfires
GOES 16 satellite photo (enhanced with infrared imagery) showing smoke generated by wildfires in Arizona at 6:46 p.m. MDT August 21, 2019.

Three wildfires in Central Arizona have burned a total of more than 14,000 acres. All of the fires are being managed, rather than suppressed, in order to enhance the natural resources.

The Sheridan Fire 26 miles northwest of Prescott is by far the most active of the three, more than tripling in size over the last two days. (See map below) The fire behavior is described as extreme, with running, wind-driven runs, and short-range spotting. A mapping flight early Thursday morning found that the lightning-caused fire had burned 8,594 acres. About 75 percent of the fire is being monitored while 25 percent is under a point protection strategy, suppressing or retarding the spread in order to protect specific sites.

The Saber fire, also started by lightning, has burned 2,093 acres 16 miles southwest of Flagstaff. Very little current information is available about this incident.

The 3,900-acre Boulin Fire 24 miles northwest of Flagstaff has calmed down considerably after putting up a large column of smoke on August 20.

Map location of wildfires in Arizona Sheridan Saber wildfires
Map showing the location of wildfires in Arizona at 4:24 a.m. MDT August 22, 2019.

Two large fires north of Grand Canyon allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries

The Ikes and Castle Fires have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres

Ikes Fire Arizona
Aerial view of the Ikes Fire, August 15, 2019. Paul Lemmon photo.

Two wildland fires on lands managed by federal agencies north of the Grand Canyon have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres. Both fires, burning at about 8,000 feet above sea level, are being allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries in order to benefit the natural resources. (see map below)

The largest blaze, the Castle Fire on the Kaibab National Forest, has burned through 96 percent of the 19,368-acre planning area, consuming a significant amount of dead and down trees and some mixed conifer species. As expected with strong gusty winds on Friday, it became more active moving into pockets of unburned piñon-juniper and mixed conifer. The fire slowed once reaching confinement lines. A total of 32 personnel are assigned, which includes 4 fire engine crews. The estimated cost to date is $4.6 million.

map Castle and Ikes Fires Arizona
3-D map (looking west) showing the locations of the Castle and Ikes Fires north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Data from August 17, 2019 at 3:30 a.m.

The 3,500-acre Ikes Fire is burning in Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. It has spread across 42 percent of the 7,785-acre planning area, with low to moderate fire behavior being observed. Firefighting resources assigned include 1 hand crew, 7 fire engines, and 1 helicopter for a total of 88 personnel. On Friday gusty winds prevented firefighters from carrying out firing operations. Crews patrolled the perimeter on the northeast and eastern portions of the fire while other personnel continued to prep the west side of Forest Service Road 223. Observed fire behavior was active, with backing fire along ridge tops and single tree torching. The estimated cost to date is $1 million.

The predicted weather for the weekend is warm, very dry conditions with temperatures about 5 degrees above average. Gusty west to southwest breezes are predicted for Saturday afternoon with light drainage winds overnight.

Firefighters Arizona Castle Fire
Firefighters on the Castle Fire. Photo by Jackie Banks for the Kaibab National Forest July 19, 2019.