The 40,000-acre Woodbury Fire 12 miles east of the Phoenix suburbs is large, but it is nowhere near as big as the five largest in the recorded history of the state, according to the graphic prepared by the Phoenix office of the National Weather Service.
On June 7, 2011, two lookouts who had been observing a burnout operation on the Horseshoe 2 fire in southern Arizona had to quickly abandon their post when the fire spotted below them. They made a “rapid retreat” down a steep rocky chute, and after unsuccessfully trying to break into a house, broke into a second one where they took refuge and watched through the windows as the fire burned around them. One of the firefighters gained entry into the house by breaking a window with his ungloved hand, cutting his hand in the process, requiring stitches. His gloves were in his front pocket.
Updated at 10:25 a.m. MT, June 5, 2011 (added links to live web cams)
The two very large fires in eastern Arizona were very active on Saturday, putting up large convection columns of smoke and adding thousands of acres.
The largest of the two fires, the Wallow fire at Alpine, Arizona, has now burned 144,000 acres and has caused the evacuation of several communities, including Alpine, Blue River, and Nutrioso. Other areas are under a pre-evacuation advisory. There is no estimate of containment of the fire.
Firefighters conducted burnouts ahead of the Wallow fire Saturday and Saturday night, completing over 30 miles on the north half of the fire. Much of the burning was done near Nutrioso and along Highways 191 and 180. The west side of the fire has burned into the San Carlos Apache Reservation, where more burnout operations may occur on Sunday.
Maps of the Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires are below. Some of the red and yellow squares representing heat detected by satellites are probably burnout operations being conducted by firefighters.
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.
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:
“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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.