Saturday, June 18, 2011

Breaking Camp in Rodeo

A major milestone has been reached with the containment of the western perimeter of the Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains. Now the only very active part of the fire lies in the north, and the big fire camp in Rodeo is going to begin to break down today. The main operation will be moved to Willcox, closer to the active northern perimeter and closer to supplies. However, Rich Harvey cautioned crews that at this point expectations are for a quick finish––and it isn't over, until it's over. He noted that the only surprise now would be a bad one, and no one wants to see that. So, patiently, the work continues.

Horseshoe Two Fire map for 18 June 2011
The hand-hatched areas in the north represent last night's operations.
The western edge of the fire is now contained, except for mop-up.

In the west at Divisions A and B, the fire line was joined and a burnout completed that held through the night. Mop-up remains to be done, to insure that no hot spots flare and start new fires. The mop-up along any recently active containment lines is rather more important today: today is another day when weather flirts with red flag conditions, but a really big blast of wind is expected the following day. (That is very bad news for the Monument Fire in the Huachucas!) Crews want to be certain that the west side of Horseshoe Two is completely buttoned up before the next really big––and unseasonal––wind arrives.

Even today, wind is expected to blow at 17-27 mph in the valley and 30-40 mph on ridges. At 35 mph, a red flag is triggered, and air support is grounded because flying becomes too dangerous.

At the north edge of the planned containment line, the night shift anchored the fire line at the Mulkins Ranch in Emigrant Canyon, and crews plan to extend that line today across the north, in order to catch the body of the fire there as winds drive it north. Big winds, especially tomorrow, will be deflected by topographic features, setting up very dangerous conditions for firefighters. Squirrelly winds could spin the fire 180º and bring havoc to all the plans. Growth potential and terrain difficulty both remain extreme.

The crews working last night to complete the fire line in Divisions A and B were well into their burn when suddenly four undocumented aliens burst through the flames and ran out of the fire (apparently uninjured), and past the firefighters. (The crew called Border Patrol.) The crews are used to clearing areas as much as possible of deer and cattle before firing a line, but these folks don't live along the border, and they were surprised indeed by the illegals. Harvey advised anyone igniting fire to yell, "¡Pásela!" before firing, to try to shoo hidden people out of danger.

Containment lines at the perimeter have all been built, but 14 miles of line is indirect, which needs to be reinforced and burned out.

Detail of active northern region of Horseshoe Two Fire, 18 June 2011

Rehabilitation is underway in the cooled interior of the fire, including in Paradise. Hazardous trees and roads are being taken care of in Whitetail Canyon.

When the fire camp is moved, 25% of the crew will remain in the Portal area, based at the fire station. 25% will stay at Ash Camp. 50% will be at the new Incident Command Post in Willcox (I believe at a high school, but check that). This third Type 1 team is transitioning now to a Type 2 team, so the worry about Horseshoe Two has downgraded to the next level. The new team will shadow the current team in order to learn the local situation, and will take over officially on Thursday. Meanwhile the BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) team is also engaged here.

Recent statistics for the Horseshoe Two Fire: 206,314 acres burned; 70% contained. The figure on size is old, and should be updated soon. For the Monument Fire near Sierra Vista: 19,335 acres burned; 15% contained.

The situation in Sierra Vista was complicated yesterday by new fires at Antelope Road and Garden Canyon. I've been told that the two new ones were contained, but not before one of them burned a short distance across Buffalo Soldier Trail. Inciweb today says that the Antelope Fire was 95% contained by 5 PM, at a size of 1000 acres.

The Monument Fire's run east along Hereford Road, toward the San Pedro River, was stopped. Intense bombardment of Miller Canyon with retardant was reportedly successful in calming this most active region of the fire. Fire lines are being constructed from Carr Canyon to Fort Huachuca. North of Miller Canyon, fire lines are being prepared for a possible burnout, if that is deemed necessary in order to hold the fire.

Up-to-the-minute information is being posted to the Facebook page on the Monument Fire. However, many untrue rumors and panicked entries are also being posted, and the main impression readers gained from it yesterday was a sense of utter chaos.

Some good news is starting to filter in that the homes of several friends have survived the Monument Fire, so far. Others, like entomologist Noel McFarland, face big losses. Word is that Mary Jo Ballator's Ash Canyon B&B did survive, one of only two houses in that location to be spared. Does anyone know how Tom Beatty in upper Miller Canyon fared?

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