Willow and Wallow

The Wallow fire has been burning for three weeks, becoming the largest fire in the history of Arizona. When a new fire started on Sunday on the same national forest, someone named it “Willow”. An interesting choice.

Willow and Wallow
InciWeb, June 20, 2011

A spokesman for the Wallow fire told us today that the Wallow fire got its name from the Bear Wallow Wilderness where it started.

Wallow fire grows to become largest in Arizona’s history

Update at 5:11 p.m. MT, June 14, 2011:

This afternoon the Wallow fire sent out this rather unusual information:

Burnout Operation Underway Near Luna Lake

Firefighters are burning vegetation between Wallow fire and the fireline north of road 180 in the Luna Lake fire camp area. This burnout will strengthen and connect containment lines in zones 1 and 2.

As long as the current favorable weather conditions continue, the crews will ignite unburned fuels in the Luna Lake area and bring fire down toward road 180.

Protection plans are in place for Luna Lake firecamp. If needed, for personal safety related to smoke or fire suppression actions, personnel may temporarily leave the fire camp.

Below is a map we put together showing the location of Luna Lake, which is on the east side of the fire between Alpine, AZ and Luna, NM. The white line is the state line. The red line is the fire perimeter.Luna Lake burnout

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Wallow fire Briefing at Hannagan spike camp 6-13-2011
Wallow fire Briefing by Deputy Incident Commander Ed Lewis at Hannagan spike camp 6-13-2011. Photo credit, U. S. Forest Service

The Wallow fire in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico has grown to become the largest in Arizona history, burning 469,407 acres to eclipse the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire which burned 468,638 acres. Area Command reported at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday via Twitter that containment has reached 18% and: “Will see continued line construction & line improvement today. Expect containment to increase.”

The only areas of the fire that spread significantly on Monday were on the east side between Alpine, AZ and Luna, NM and on the south side above the Blue River.

Firefighters have been conducting a burnout or backfire northwest of Luna but that is not yet complete. They may be waiting for optimum conditions to finish it and tie it in to highway 180.

On the south side, in very remote and rugged terrain, they have been working on 9-10 miles of indirect fireline near the Blue River. When weather conditions are suitable they will burn out the area between the main fire and the constructed line.

Below is a 3-D map of the south and southeast sides of the Wallow fire. Click on it to see a larger version.
Continue reading “Wallow fire grows to become largest in Arizona’s history”

Horseshoe 2 fire in Arizona continues to grow, 90,200 acres blackened

Updated at 10:20 a.m. June 4, 2011

Map of Horseshoe 2 fire north half, 0745, 6-4-1011
Map of the north half of the Horseshoe 2 fire, showing new heat detected by satellites within a 12-hour period sometime prior to 7:45 a.m. June 4. An earlier perimeter, mapped at 5:36 a.m. 6-3-2011, is in red. MODIS/Google

The townsites of Paradise and Whitetail remained evacuated on Friday as the Horseshoe 2 fire near Portal, Arizona continued to spread to the north, adding another 4,000 acres bringing the total blackened acres to 90,200 making it the fifth largest wildfire in state history.

Here is an excerpt from a 9:00 a.m. June 4 update from the incident management team:

The fire reached Paradise yesterday. Fire crews protected the community with no loss of property. Structure protection in and around Paradise and East Whitetail Canyon will continue to be the priority today. Line construction has been completed along East Turkey Creek Rd north and south of Paradise and crews initiated burnout along these lines as the fire approached. Burnout operations have been stated north of West Turkey Creek Rd as the fire backs slowly to the west.

A mandatory evacuation order continues for the communities of Paradise, East Whitetail Canyon and nearby residences. The Chiricahua National Monument is closed to visitors.

A new tactic includes an expanded planned indirect perimeter on the north and northwest perimeter.

The fire is 50% contained and is being suppressed by 859 firefighters. The other large fire burning in Arizona is the Wallow fire.

Firefighters could be busy for a while. The fire season in the southwest United States could last another five to six weeks.

Evacuations ordered for Horseshoe 2 fire in Arizona

Updated at 3:15 p.m. June 3, 2011

Map of Horseshoe 2 fire 0930 6-3-1011
Map of Horseshoe 2 fire, showing heat detected by satellites within the last 24 hours. An earlier perimeter, mapped at 7:31 p.m. 6-1-2011, is in red. Heat was mapped sometime prior to 0930 MT 6-3-2011. The AZ/NM state line is the faint white line just west of Rodeo, NM. MODIS/Google

As you can see from the map of the Horseshoe 2 fire above, the fire has grown significantly over the last two days and is now close to the community of Paradise. It is burning in the southeast corner of Arizona near the New Mexico state line. More information is at InciWeb. The incident management team produced this fire progression map from data collected Thursday night.

The weather forecast for Paradise, AZ, (elevation 5,599′) calls for 22 mph winds gusting up to 31, high temperature of 87, and a low relative humidity of 6% Friday afternoon…not good news for firefighters. Current near-real-time weather observations can be found at the site for the Monte Vista RAWS weather station located on the west side of the fire at an elevation of 9,250′. At 2:06 p.m. on Friday it recorded a temperature of 70 degrees, 12% humidity, and a 17 mph wind gusting up to 30.

Jim Thomas’ Incident Management Team has been ordered for June 4 to replace Dugger Hughes’ IMTeam which will conclude their 14-day assignment. More about these IMTeams.

The Incident Management Team distributed the information below at 9:00 Friday morning:

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“Evacuation ordered for Paradise and East Whitetail Canyon

The Cochise County Sheriff’s office has issued a mandatory evacuation order for the communities of Paradise, East Whitetail Canyon and the surrounding communities effective 6:00 pm, June 2, 2011.
Fire Facts:

  • Date Started: 05/08/2011
  • Number of Personnel: 825 personnel including 9  hotshot crews, 9 hand crews
  • Location: 5 miles south of Portal, Arizona
  • Cause: Human – under investigation
  • Equipment: 36 Engines, 24 Water Tenders
  • Size:  86,140 acres
  • Estimated Containment Date: 06/22/2011

General Information/Announcements:

A Red Flag Warning is in effect today from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. due to high winds. Despite the concentrated effort of over one hundred hotshot firefighters, yesterday the fire crossed Rock Creek Canyon and, aided by strong winds and high flame lengths, the fire spotted over a mile and a half east towards Paradise. The Barfoot Lookout Tower and communication equipment in the area were destroyed by the fire, and crews were forced to disengage and shift to an indirect firefighting strategy.

According to Incident Commander Dugger Hughes, a dead oak tree burning within the main fire area threw an ember over containment lines, which landed into a live oak tree with a dead branch. Over the course of the night, the ember came to life and by the time firefighting resources were able to detect it early the next morning the fire had reached unsafe conditions.  The oak tree was not lit as part of a burnout operation.

“This goes to show that you can work hard and do everything right, and all it takes is one little ember in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Hughes.”

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Update: read the June 4, 2011 article about the Horseshoe 2 fire.

Horseshoe 2 fire becomes 5th largest wildfire in Arizona history

Updated at 8:36 p.m. MT, June 2, 2011

The Incident Management Team issued the following update this evening:

Evacuation Order for

Paradise and East Whitetail Canyon

For immediate release: June 2, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.

The Cochise County Sheriff’s office has issued a mandatory evacuation order for the communities of Paradise and East Whitetail Canyon as of 6:00 pm, June 2, 2011. The evacuation is being issued as a safety precaution. Due to Red Flag wind conditions, The Horseshoe 2 Fire has extended across Rock Creek Canyon and has moved northeast. The fire has spotted across Pinery Canyon Road (Rte. 42) and firefighters are actively working to suppress that fire.

The Chiricahua National Monument is temporarily closed to visitors.

More information is at InciWeb.

 

Horseshoe Two fire from Earth orbit
Horseshoe 2 fire as seen from the International Space Station. NASA photo.

The Horseshoe 2 fire, which started on May 8, grew by a couple of thousand acres each day during most of the month of May, but after May 26 when it was 47,000 acres it began eating up the acres at a faster rate until today it reached 80,500 acres and became the 5th largest fire in the recorded history of Arizona.

Horseshoe 2 fire, burning out
Three hotshot ignition specialists evenly spaced walk in a line lighting the grasses, providing for a low intensity controlled burn to clear understory. Photo: Todd Abel SWIMT

Here is an excerpt from today’s 9:00 a.m. update by the Incident Management Team:

The primary focus of today’s activities will be to contain the fire that crossed the line in Saulsbury Saddle, which includes constructing hand line by five hot shot crews and dropping retardant from aerial resources. Structure protection is in place in the West Turkey Creek area as crews have taken precautionary measures to minimize the threat of property loss.

Burnout operations will continue on the southwest side of the fire along Tex Canyon Road, completing the remaining six mile containment line for that area.

Smoke will be visible over the northwest and southern portions of the fire as operations continue. Travelers along State Route 80 will continue to see fire activity and are asked to be extra careful while driving in this area.

Map of Horseshoe 2 fire 0945 6-2-1011
Map of Horseshoe 2 fire, showing heat detected by satellites. The perimeter, mapped 6-1-2011, is in red. Heat was mapped sometime prior to 0945 MT 6-2-2011. MODIS/Google

More information about the Horseshoe 2 fire, which is on the Arizona and New Mexico border near Portal, AZ and 2 miles west of Rodeo, NM, is at InciWeb.

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Update: read the June 4, 2011 article about the Horseshoe 2 fire.

Schultz fire, one day too early

In June the Schultz fire, started by an abandoned campfire, burned 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff, Arizona. As far as I know, the culprits have not yet been found but there was a reward offered by a local brewery of free beer for life for anyone with information leading to the campers who left the fire burning.

At a public meeting this week the Forest Supervisor of the Coconino National Forest discussed the fire restrictions which were not in place when the fire started. Here is an excerpt from the Arizona Daily Sun:

One question prompted the most audience applause Wednesday night at Coconino High: Why weren’t any fire restrictions in place before the fire began?

The Schultz Fire began this past summer after other major wildfires had already prompted evacuations, including the Hardy Fire and a fire in Spring Valley.

Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart responded:

“Trying to come up with criterion as to when it’s best to close the forest is really, really difficult,” he said.

The agency has not opted to use certain dates of the year to set or remove fire restrictions, because sometimes those dates don’t match what’s been happening with the weather, he said.

Also, Stewart doesn’t want to close the forest to public access when it isn’t necessary, he said.

The Coconino tries to match its fire-restriction decisions to three other forests so that the public isn’t confused about what the rules are in various places, he said.

The decisions about whether to implement fire restrictions across these forests are made in Monday-morning phone calls during the spring and summer.

The Schultz fire started on a Sunday after a Saturday wildfire forced the evacuation of parts of southeast Flagstaff.

So it occurred before the Monday meeting used to discuss fire restrictions or closures.

“The reality was, in this case, the Schultz fire was 24 hours too early,” Stewart said. “We had not gotten into those discussions.”