Tuesday, June 29, 2010

South Fork Reopens!

I returned home from Flagstaff to welcome news: the Horseshoe Fire is virtually extinguished! The Forest Service's fly-overs with infrared cameras have shown some remaining hotspots in smoldering tree stumps, but no live flames and no areas of concern.

The final tallies: fire size 3,386 acres; 85% contained; cost $9.8 million.

At last night's final community meeting regarding the Horseshoe Fire, District Ranger Bill Edwards, Jon Kohn and Chris Barth met with folks from Portal and Rodeo. Now the Coronado National Forest's own Type 3 fire response team, working under Darrell Miller, has assumed the final oversight of the Horseshoe Fire. Jon and Chris, both information officers from Wayne Cook's Type 2 fire team, advised us about further development of our community fire plan and said good-bye on behalf of Wayne Cook's crew. Delane announced that she's now a member of the Dalton Gang, having received her official Dalton Hotshots t-shirt.

This past weekend, Jon and Chris joined Peter Warshall in South Fork to photograph and measure stream channel conditions at critical junctures, so that we have a baseline for judging changes caused by sediment that will be washed into the stream when the monsoonal rains hit the debris from the fire. Years ago, the high-intensity Rattlesnake Fire wrought dramatic changes to the streambed, but we had no baseline for assessing those changes. The transformation is expected to be much less dramatic this time, because a low-intensity fire dominated in the South Fork drainage, but Peter's measurements will increase the accuracy of assessments.

Peter reports on the health of South Fork: "The manzanita crop looks great and bears will be well supplied. The bottom riparian from the junction of the Horseshoe trail and downstream is completely intact. Crews have cleared and defined the trail, and old timers will marvel at the ease of walking. They also cleared some of the poison ivy which was rampant this year. The acorn crop also looks good, so the Chiricahua Nayarit Squirrel [= Apache Fox Squirrel] should remain resident. At least three trogons called, and the Painted Redstarts were numerous. There were fingerlings in pools throughout the South [Fork of] Cave Creek channels."

And––hooray!––the roads into South Fork and Herb Martyr are open once again to visitors and hikers.

Attention is now focused on new lightning-ignited fires in the Chiricahuas, particularly the Brushy Fire, but none of those are burning in areas where homes or fragile resources are threatened, and they are being treated as what they are––part of the natural, pre-monsoonal fire regime. Rains should be arriving in a few days, and those are expected to douse the new fires.

1 comment:

  1. A comment from Isaac: "I wanted to write and thank you for your excellent blog. I attended Camp Chiricahua in 1997, and ever since returning from that trip and sharing my photographs and species list with my folks, my mother has been dying to visit. This year, she was finally able to get the time off and we're coming to SE AZ July 9-18, and plan on spending the 10th-14th in the Portal area. When the Horseshoe Fire first came into the news it seemed like a cruel twist of fate and we just felt like totally out of the loop, but being able to read your blog updates has provided an excellent real-life context to the fire that isn't available simply reading Inciweb. I'm going to keep reading your blog after we get back from our trip. It's a most enjoyable window into the goings-on of one of my favorite places in the world.

    Now, I'm just hoping South Fork will be open by the time we get there..."