Saturday, June 11, 2011

Current Fire Strategy

Yesterday the wind was calmer, and fire crews working on the Horseshoe Two Fire (which has burned for more than a month in the Chiricahua Mountains) were able to gain some ground in their efforts to contain this fire. Today's fire map shows the areas of active fire (red boundary lines) and of the planned containment boundary (dotted black lines).

Fire map on 11 June 2011

The original plan called for stopping the fire in the interior of the Chiricahuas at several key ridges and points. However, given the unusually extreme conditions of dryness and wind, it has not been possible to contain the fire within the rougher terrain. In high winds (of which we've had plenty!), whirlwinds of fire cast embers a couple of miles away from the main fire, and create new fire starts. The primary places where containment efforts are working are down in the flats at the base of the mountains, and that is why the new fallback lines are drawn so far away from the currently active fire. The crews are bringing the fire to them, where it can be managed.

Within the Chiricahua National Monument, fire is burning in Jesse James Canyon and upper Rhyolite Canyon. Here standard suppression tools are not being used, beyond protecting structures and possibly igniting fire on ridges, using helicopters, in order to create a lower intensity burn. Suppression tools carry their own impacts, and here fire is mainly being allowed to burn through the monument, and fire lines are going around it. The very rugged cliffs and hoodoos should afford some natural barriers to fire, and it's my hope that a mosaic burn can happen, as long as wind remains calmer while fire is moving through the monument.

Detail of Horseshoe Two Fire entering Chiricahua National Monument

In Pinery Canyon and West Turkey Creek, the fire was active yesterday due to wind flow through the canyons, but it was constrained by water drops.

Detail of active fire in West Turkey Creek area on 11 June 2011

At the far northern edge of the fire, lighter fuels will be running out, and segments of the perimeter line are being connected to achieve containment. In Whitetail Canyon, mop-up work continues today.

Better news is that some of the big trees in the Rustler Park area survived. Apparently not many, but some is better than none, which was originally feared to be the case. In other areas, glimmers of green remain. We won't really know the condition of the high country until the smoke clears, ashes settle, and the first rains start to revive the burn. Raymond VanBuskirk hiked Bear Canyon behind our house, which burned intensively during the first night of the fire, and found a few big madrone trees still alive.

A community meeting with the fire team is set for 6 PM tonight at the Rodeo Community Center. Joining them will be representatives from the Coronado National Forest, National Park Service, and State of Arizona.

As of this morning, the burn covers 134,615 acres and is 45% contained. 23 structures have been destroyed, most of them outbuildings. 1,153 people are working to put out the Horseshoe Two Fire.

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