Archive for June, 2011

Fire updates for Arizona wildfires

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

An alarming percentage of the forests in Arizona are on fire watch, closed in fear of fire, or actually on fire right now. At this writing, Flagstaff, Sedona and the Tonto National Forest (the areas for which I have written hiking guides) are not ablaze. But it’s still early in the fire season.

The Wallow Fire is burning along the eastern border of Arizona, mostly in the Apache National Forest. (Apache is half of the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forest – the two are combined administratively). The fire, now the second largest in state history, and threatening to become the largest, threatens developed communities of Alpine, Greer and Eager, and has burned a couple dozen strictures around those parts. There have been no reported deaths or injuries.

Two other fires are burning in southern Arizona, and are also quite large: the Horseshoe and Murphy fires burning within the Coronado National Forest, and surrounding areas. Those fires are closer to containment, but the conditions that made them possible, extreme dryness and high winds, still exist. Thus, the Coronado Forest – all of it – it closed to entry.

Here are some links to help keep track of what’s open, what’s closed and what’s on fire right now:

Inciweb Incident Information System [ inciweb.org] is the clearing-house ofr press releases for fires and other natural disatsres. This link goes to the Wallow Fire, the big fire on the eatsern border of Arizona.

Apache- Sitgreaves Web Page – normally with event announcements, but currently with evacuation notices.

The Coronado National Forest Web Page. They’re closed. They mean it.

Finally, Arizona Game and Fish is keeping track of all the stuff around the edges, including fishing and hunting restrictions that go along with closures.

The Coronado NF press release explains some of the science:

The Forest is faced with an unprecedented fire season this year, with extreme fire danger and over 200,000 acres burned across the Forest. Our national resources to fight fire are being strained to the limit. Fuels (grass, shrubs, trees, ground debris) on the Coronado are at record levels for dryness. Kiln-dried lumber sold in hardware stores is at 12% moisture content. The large fuels on the Coronado are at 4% moisture content. The smaller fuels are drier. All are extremely flammable.

They go on to conclude that “The probability of ignition on the Coronado is 100%, which means any firebrand to hit the ground where fuels are present would start a wildfire.”

There is also a 100% certainly that some camper would build a fire, or even drop a lit cigarette if the forest were open, and that’s an automatic fire. So they’re closed. Both of the current fires began in spite of fire restrictions across the forest.

The Wallow Fire, just as ominously, was caused by an abandoned campfire (as was the Schultz Fire last year near Flagstaff).

Fires don’t put themselves out in Arizona. People have to do it. You can either do it on your own, with a bucket of water and shovel before you leave camp, or the government can do it 600 square miles later with hundreds of people and millions of dollars. That choice is yours every time you build a fire.