Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Portaleños Come Home

Overall, the news about the Horseshoe Two Fire is positive. Threat to the Portal area of the Chiricahua Mountains has lessened to the point that residents were allowed to return home this morning. We have all been unloading and unpacking!

Wind has subsided greatly, aiding firefighters today in their efforts to control the conflagration, estimated at this morning's briefing to be 10% contained.

The greatest fire activity now is at the southern perimeter, where fire has crossed south of the road into Horseshoe Canyon. Today's milder winds are predicted to come from the west, a shift in direction, and to gust up to 20 mph at the peaks, a big improvement over the past two days. A concern voiced this morning was that westerly wind could push the southeastern perimeter into grassy lowlands, a very "flashy" fuel type, and create another strong run of fire. Hence, preparations are underway in that area to build fire lines, including back-burning if possible into the oncoming fire, to create a fire line that will hold.

On the western perimeter, fire was rolling downhill into Cave Creek Canyon between Cathedral Rock and Skull Rock, and the fire crew today set out to anchor a fireline between those two sheer cliffs, to prevent (we all hope) further incursion into Cave Creek Canyon.

After this dry winter, the moisture content of both dead and live fuels is very low, and probability of ignition is estimated at 85%. So far about 10,000 acres have burned.

Tonight a formal briefing is scheduled for 6 PM Arizona time at the Rodeo Community Center.

Our friends in Rodeo have really come through, showing great kindness and hospitality to all of us evacuees. Izzy and Ramon Escobar, Izzy's sister, and other Rodeo folk have manned the Rodeo Community Center's evacuation center and cooked all the food given to people who sought refuge from the fire. Izzy said that they never had to ask for any supplies, because donations began to arrive immediately from all over the region, without anyone's asking. The Food Basket, an organization in the Sulphur Springs Valley, provided us with ample food. The American Red Cross provided cots and bedding. And our good friends in Rodeo provided the labor, the organizational skills, and many, many offers of spare beds. Thank you so very much! Those tasty meals and cozy beds kept us going, and your concern and camaraderie met a different kind of need.

Although the threat here at the north end of the fire is now much less, the fire is far from over, and people living in other parts of the Chiricahuas (indeed, in the entire Southwest) may still face the situation we have just come through. And our firefighters are still fighting a very dangerous fire.

Here at the northern perimeter, the bulldozer operator and his crew, who put in the fire line 1/3 mile above our home and the Luckadoo's, did so in the midst of raging fire and high wind. They carefully judged just when the dozer could plow a little further, and then quickly pulled him back whenever gusts of high wind brought a surge of flame too close. This is dangerous work. Only the willingness of these firefighters to put themselves in peril saved our homes. They are continuing to work on this very treacherous Horseshoe Two Fire... and this is just the beginning of what has already been an exceedingly volatile fire season throughout the Southwest.

How can we possibly thank them for what they are willing to do to help other people and to safeguard as much as possible our greatly treasured landscapes like the Chiricahuas, teeming with wildlife?

You will never hear it officially, but the origin of this Horseshoe Two Fire and last year's Horseshoe Fire is identical, near Burro Springs, along a trail frequented by illegal immigrants and drug runners--and only rarely by hikers. So when, exactly, are we going to solve our immigration problems?


  1. I'm glad your home was untouched and that you were able to move back in. I appreciate reading your blog as my in-laws, Joan and Chuck Jensen and Debbie Bernard are your neighbors. We drove down on Tues to help the evacuate but thankfully they were able to stay in their homes.

  2. The fire fighters containment efforts have been successful to date. Last nights back burn south of Sulfur Canyon appears successful this morning. Hopefully the fire can be contained in Horseshoe Canyon and another rapidly moving grass fire sweeping north can be prevented.