Two cousins owe $3.7 million for Wallow fire

Wallow Fire. Photo by Jason Coil
Wallow Fire. Photo by Jayson Coil.

Two men who are cousins have been ordered to pay $3.7 million for accidentally starting what became the largest fire in Arizona history. Last May David and Caleb Malboeuf left a campfire unattended in the eastern part of the state which escaped and became the Wallow Fire, eventually burning 538,040 acres, which includes 15,407 acres after it crossed the border into New Mexico.

The Malboeufs have asked the U.S. Magistrate to set the monthly payments for Caleb at $500 and $250 for David. At that rate it will take them about 4,900 years to pay it off.

The $3.7 million only includes claims that have been filed and approved by the court for actual damages that occurred, mostly on private land. The U.S. Forest Service agreed not to seek repayment for $79 million in suppression costs. However the agency and any of the victims could later initiate civil actions against the Malboeufs.

We initially reported on the early stages of this settlement in September.


Thanks go out to Mark and Kelly.

Prescribed fire smoke adds “texture” to views of the Grand Canyon

Smoke form Thompson prescribed fire, Grand Canyon
The caption for this photo on InciWeb reads: “Smoke from prescribed fires adds a special texture to the sunrise view from Mather Point.”

The Grand Canyon National Park employee who updated the InciWeb report for the Thompson prescribed fire put an interesting spin on the smoke visible from Mather Point,  describing it as as adding a “special texture” to the view. The park is conducting two prescribed fires in the North Rim area, the Thompson and Range projects totaling 2,600 acres.

Range Rx Fire, NPS photo
Range prescribed fire in Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo
Cape Royal at sunset., NPS photo by Jessica Pope
Cape Royal in the Grand Canyon at sunset. NPS photo by Jessica Pope

Wildfire morning briefing, September 29, 2012

Men who started Wallow fire may owe more than $3 million

The two cousins who started the 2011 Wallow Fire may be on the hook to pay over $3 million. Caleb and David Malboeuf are on probation following last month’s sentencing for leaving a campfire unattended. During restitution hearings this week attorneys for both sides agreed that $3 million is appropriate, but they are still haggling over an additional $500,000, with the defendants’ attorney saying documentation is incomplete for those funds.

The Wallow Fire, which burned from eastern Arizona into New Mexico, became the largest fire in the history of Arizona. It burned over half a million acres and destroyed 32 homes and 4 commercial structures. At least $79 million was spent to suppress the fire.

Turn over federal lands to the states?

There is a growing chorus among certain political groups and at least one state to give away millions of acres of federal land. For example, the Governor of Utah signed a bill that demands that the federal government hand over almost 30 million acres to the state. Other states are looking to follow Utah’s lead, and a candidate for President, Mitt Romney, is on board. Timothy Egan has a thoughtful article in the New York Times about this expanding threat.

If the national parks, forests, and BLM lands are given away or sold, the 16,000 wildland firefighters that now work for the Department of Interior and the US Forest Service, if they still have jobs, may find themselves working for a state, or a private company such as British Petroleum, Weyerhaeuser, or Union Pacific Coal Company.

Waldo Canyon fire slowed air travel into Colorado Springs

While the Waldo Canyon Fire was burning in and near Colorado Springs, three of the four airlines serving the city reported a decline in passenger numbers. The fire started June 23, killed two people, and destroyed about 346 homes.

Fire activity in the Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains

Usually by early to mid-September the fire season in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Northwest is seriously winding down, but firefighters in those areas are still busy. It is very unusual this late in the year, but air tankers are still stationed at Billings, Montana.

Below is a map showing heat detected today by satellites on wildfires in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming and Oregon. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Map of wildfires detected by satellites, September 29, 2012

Interesting headlines

I like this headline in Utah’s Park Record:

Fire prescribed for 570 acres near Wyoming border

Here is another one, this time from the Ramona Sentinel in California:

Cal Fire crushes grass fire near airport



Thanks go out to Chris and Dick

Service to be held Thursday for BIA firefighter

A memorial service will be held Thursday, June 14, for Anthony Ramon Polk who was killed June 8 when his Type 6 engine rolled over while helping to suppress the Montezuma Fire in Arizona. Here are the details, as provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs:


Final Arrangements Planned for Fallen Firefighter

Anthony Ramon Polk, a firefighter for Quechan Tribe and a resident of Yuma, AZ would have been 31 on his birthday, June 22, this year. He died June 8 in a one-vehicle accident while on assignment at the Montezuma Fire.

Memorial services are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at Quechan Community Center. A wake is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Friday at Yuma Mortuary Chapel. Funeral services will be at 5 p.m. Friday at Cry House in Winterhaven. Cremation will be at dawn Saturday at Quechan Cemetery.

Anthony Polk and his daughter Aiyana
Anthony Polk and his daughter Aiyana. Photo provided by Fort Yuma Agency.

A member of the San Carlos Apache and Quechan Tribes and a descendent of the Carr, Pasqual, Sahenti, Escalanti and Polk families, Anthony’s given names are: “Two Feathers” and “Morning Dancer at Sunrise.” Anthony participated in powwows and traditional ceremonies as a singer and grass dancer. He was an avid sports enthusiast and played a variety of sports. A graduate of San Pasqual High School in 1999, Anthony attended one year of college at Haskell Indian College in Lawrence, KS in 2000.

He served 10 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Fort Yuma Agency where he became a leader of the Prescribed Fire Operations/Fuels Program. He was a Firing Boss and Incident Commander Type 4 as well as an Engine Boss, and training to be a Fire Investigator and a Burn Boss. He worked with several organizations including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service and local fire departments throughout the area in the fuels program.

He is survived by his daughter, Aiyana Polk, his mother, Ramona Villa, grandmother, Lucinda Polk, siblings, Manual, Alex and Raquiel Villa, and numerous relatives and friends.

His parents are Ramona Polk Villa and Benjamin Villa of Yuma; grandparents are Lucinda Escalanti Polk and the late Raphael Bradley Polk, Sr. He was preceded in death by Grandmother Vicenta Villa and Grandfather Manual Martinez and his Aunt Mancy Triste.

Anthony was most known for his outgoing, caring, friendly personality and good sense of humor. He enjoyed fishing, cooking, and being with family. He devoted all his energy to making his daughter happy.

Cards can be sent to the Polk Family at 673 Baseline Road, Winterhaven, CA 92283. Flowers can be sent to Yuma Mortuary & Crematory, 551 W. 16th Street, Yuma, AZ 85364. Donations are being accepted at AEA Federal Credit Union, Donation Account: 1613510-010, Member Name: for Anthony Polk.

Arizona flags flown at half-staff for fallen firefighter

The Bureau of Indian Affairs provided more information this afternoon about Anthony Polk who was killed when his engine rolled over while working on the Montezuma fire in Arizona yesterday, June 9.


Fallen Firefighter is Escorted Home

Engine Boss Anthony Polk, 31, who died Friday, June 8 on the Montezuma Fire, “devoted his life to assuring the safety of others before himself,” said Keeny Escalanti Sr., Quechan Tribal President in Yuma, AZ. Anthony was a member of the Quechan/San Carolos Apache Indian Tribe and provided Fiduciary Trust services to the Quechan and Cocopah Indian tribes.

A graduate of San Pasqual High School, Anthony lived in Yuma most of his life surrounded by an extensive family. While in school, Anthony was a member of the athletic club. After graduating, he attended the Fort Yuma Academy for Firefighters.

His training, experience and dedication led him to a full-time position with the Fort Yuma Agency where he became a leader of the Prescribed Fire Operations/Fuels Program. He was a Firing Boss and Incident Commander Type 4 as well as an Engine Boss, and training to be a Fire Investigator and a Burn Boss. He worked with several organizations including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, BLM, BOR, FWS, and local fire departments. His responsibility was to all five tribes along the Colorado River regarding the fuels program.

He served 10 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and will be remembered as a teacher among his co-workers and as a dedicated firefighter in the community, said Agency Superintendent Irene Herder.

During one incident near home in 2010, Anthony was a firefighter among many who saved seven homes near the Arizona border along the Colorado River from a large brushfire. Local fire department officials said at the time, they requested assistance from BIA and BLM crews who coordinated the use of brush trucks in the rough terrain.

“Where the fire originated from, it spread to the west and we got in there with units from BIA and BLM and were able to save four or five trailers which had two families that lived in them,” Steve Taylor, Winterhaven Fire Department Chief was quoted in a May 6, 2010 issue of the Yuma Sun. This picture of Anthony, shared by his home unit, was taken on that fire two years ago.

Drexel Heights Fire Department personnel lined Ajo Highway on Friday, saluting a fallen comrade as his body was taken from the fireline to Tucson.

Today, by order of Gov. Jan Brewer, all state flags are flown at half-staff until sunset in honor of a firefighter killed in the line of duty. His body, which is being escorted to Yuma this afternoon, should arrive home by then.

He is survived by a five-year-old daughter, his mother, Ramona Villa, grandmother, Lucinda Polk and numerous relatives and friends.


Firefighter killed in vehicle accident in Arizona

UPDATE at 12:18 a.m. MDT, June 9, 2012.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has identified the firefighter that was killed in Friday’s vehicle accident as Engine Boss Anthony Polk, 31, of Yuma, Arizona.

We extend out sincere condolences to Mr. Polk’s family, friends, coworkers, and the BIA.


UPDATE at 9:29 a.m. MT, June 9, 2012

The incident management team has released some additional information about the fatal accident on Friday in which one firefighter was killed. The deceased was an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was one of three firefighters on a Type 6 engine when it rolled over. The firefighter was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver and another passenger were transported to the Sells hospital and later released. The accident happened on Federal Route 19, near milepost 22.

They expect to release the firefighter’s name later Saturday morning.


A firefighter working on a fire in Arizona was killed Friday morning in a vehicle accident. An engine crew that was driving to their assignment on the Montezuma fire was involved in a rollover. The accident occurred at 8:30 a.m. a spokesperson for the fire told Wildfire Today. One firefighter was killed and two suffered minor injuries. No other details are available at this time.

The Montezuma fire has burned about 1,700 acres in the Baboquivari Mountain Range on Tribal land 20 miles southeast of Sells, Arizona and is being managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is in steep terrain with heavy brush, making it difficult for crews to directly suppress the fire. According to a report from the scene, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have been the only means of suppression.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of the firefighters involved.