Thursday, June 17, 2010

Active Day for Horseshoe Fire

Fire briefing on June 17 (Photos by Narca)

The fire crew, which is working to contain the Horseshoe Fire that continues to burn in the Chiricahua Wilderness, assembled at six this morning for its daily briefing. Yesterday's hot, dry, windy conditions did indeed light up the fire, although it continues to behave fairly sedately, advancing at a rate of about a quarter-mile a day. Yesterday about 100 more acres burned in the northwest region of the fire, backing down into two canyons above the South Fork picnic area (blue arrow), and bringing the total to 2862 acres burned.

Similar fire behavior is expected today: the fire is backing downslope along the ground with flames about 2 feet high, then roaring back up through the pre-heated canopy. Crews are being cautioned that spotting is possible (but not likely) up to 1/2 mile from the fire. New starts in lighter fuels could move as fast as 1/4 mile an hour, but overall the fire is expected to move only about 1/4 mile closer to South Fork today. Water drops will continue to be used to dampen the fire's movement.

Higher up, where the fire burned earlier into the bottom of South Fork around Maple Camp, it is thought to be extinguished, and the crew will be double-checking that today. Similarly, in Log Canyon mop-up work is thought to have quenched the fire.

Fire map at morning briefing, June 17
Blue arrow: South Fork picnic area. Blue box: Portal Peak

This fire map shows the secured area in the west and south with a black boundary. The percentage of containment remains at about 25%. Inactive edges on the north and south of the burn are shown with a red dotted line. There mop-up work continues, to be sure that further ignition won't become a problem. The active edge of the fire to the north and east is shown by a solid red line. I drew a blue box around Portal Peak for your reference. So that you can more easily see the recent spread, here is a map from a day or two ago:

Today's conditions are expected to be similar to yesterday's, with less wind, perhaps gusting to 28 mph. Humidity is still very low, bottoming out at only 4%. Temperature should reach into the high 90ºs in Rodeo. This morning's light winds from the north and northeast should blow the fire back onto itself, but this afternoon they will shift again, coming from the west-southwest, and pick up strength. By afternoon we could be seeing big columns of smoke, as we did yesterday. The fire will soon be reaching another series of high bluffs, those sentinel cliffs of lower South Fork, which should interrupt its spread.

Horseshoe Fire in late afternoon, June 16

One road has re-opened: the back-country road that runs from Rustler Park to Long Park. The Herb Martyr and South Fork roads remain closed.

Border Patrol alerted the fire team that activity of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers has heated up as much as the fire, saying that they are "running all over" the Chiricahuas, so firefighters have to be alert to more than just fire safety. Firefighting near the international border brings a host of new problems to the task. Not only do firefighters have to worry about encountering armed, potentially hostile, illegal border crossers, they also may find interference with their communications originating in Mexico, and unattended vehicles "will be damaged or stolen." The Forest Service advises all firefighters that "threats to employees are present 24/7/365."

It occurred to me that one benefit of this fire is that it will burn up some of the tons of garbage that illegal entrants have dumped along their travel corridors in the Chiricahuas.

One another subject, Portaleños will be pleased to hear that we have a new acronym: POPC, in reference to staying hydrated while working the fire lines: pee often, pee clear. One of the fire officials from Montana was saying that he's finding the heat "brutal." With all the gear the firefighters have to wear while engaged in hard physical work, the heat must indeed be hard to take––your efforts are very appreciated! 

The current incident commander, Brad McBratney, commented on the positive attitude he's finding in the work environment here––an attitude that began when the Type 1 crew first came, and continues today. 

Everyone is invited to come to tonight's community meeting (7 PM at the Portal Fire & Rescue classroom), where we'll receive an update and be shown a powerpoint presentation on the fire. I'm hoping that we'll also learn whether the annual trogon census can be held on Saturday.

Factoid: sales of chewing tobacco at the Portal Store skyrocketed with the arrival of the fire crews.

No comments:

Post a Comment