Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fire News: Photos of South Fork

Now at over 70,000 acres, the Horseshoe Two Fire burning in the Chiricahua Mountains has become the 6th largest fire in Arizona history, and is expected to grow to about 90,000 acres before it is contained.

Low-intensity burn in South Fork
(All photos by Rose Ann Rowlett)

Rose Ann Rowlett sent these photos and a report on her recent visit to South Fork, in the company of Linda Peery (USFS biologist), Salek (a hydrologist), and community members Dave Jasper, Richard Webster, John Yerger and Reed Peters. Linda was asking local bird experts their advise on avoiding harm to nesting cavities as the USFS prepares for expected floods during the summer monsoon.

Burn at the South Fork trailhead and picnic area

Burn from the South Fork bridge

A few (not many) mature riparian trees will be removed in South Fork and the main Cave Creek Canyon, in order to protect bridges and the town of Portal from some of the more serious ramifications of flooding. Rose Ann was encouraged by the competence and concern she saw in personnel who will be working with rehabilitation of the canyons.

May 31 fire map

Detail of West Turkey Creek / Saulsbury Saddle region

Detail of area to be burned out in Rucker & Tex Canyons

Current, ongoing burnouts in Rucker and Tex Canyons down to Highway 80 and in the West Turkey Creek area are expected to be completed during the next week, finally achieving containment of this very intense, extensive fire.

Smoke over Portal and Cave Creek Canyon, 31 May 2011

At last night's community meeting, folks from the BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) team talked to the community about measures that they will be taking to help the recovery of the Chiricahuas during the coming year. Right now the team is mapping the burn so they know where the fire burned intensively, moderately or at low intensity.

The monsoon itself will determine what happens in the aftermath of the fire. The best scenario would be a gentle start with patchy rains, moving from lower elevations to upcanyon. The team will advise Cochise County on what needs to be done to protect the town of Portal, which is in the county's jurisdiction, and not the BAER team's. (It will be interesting to see whether local government is as responsive and competent as the federal fire and BAER teams have been.)

Fire crews have accomplished what has often seemed impossible under these windy, dry conditions. The last big winds, Wynne said, gusted to 60 mph! I'm hearing from many people that "they are my heroes!"

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