Friday, June 17, 2011

The Fires, Mainly Horseshoe Two

Progress continues on containing the Horseshoe Two Fire (now at 184,198 acres) in the Chiricahua Mountains, although challenging conditions also continue as we face another red flag day, when winds from the southwest are expected to gust above 35 mph. At the 6 AM briefing to fire crews, the meteorologist noted that already this early in the day, winds on ridges were over 30 mph, even though in the valley it seemed calm. Last night––a time when winds usually die down––there were gusts to 40 mph.

Horseshoe Two Fire map for June 17, 2011

In the southwestern part of the fire (divisions A and B), the burnout continues in John Long and Rucker Canyons, and a great deal has been accomplished there. But the job isn't yet finished, and crews were cautioned that with these winds and the unprecedented dryness of fuel, the fire can still jump containment and go anywhere. Containing this part of the fire perimeter is within reach, but not yet in the bag. Work has progressed in Division B to the point that crews there are waiting for Division A to also make it to the point that the open perimeter can safely be pinched off.

Detail of active western part of Horseshoe Two Fire

The trickier and more difficult job is at the north end of the fire. Fire is established in upper Wood and Emigrant Canyons. Here in the north, several canyons are lining up with the wind, setting the stage for possible high-intensity runs in Wood, Buckhorn, Maverick and Emigrant Canyons. Mountain peaks to the south of that line of canyons could deflect the prevailing wind, generating down-canyon flow. We have on our hands another day of extreme fire behavior.

Detail of active northern perimeter of Horseshoe Two Fire

At the northern perimeter line, crews have begun to fire the flat lands, to create a blackline that will hopefully arrest the oncoming body of the fire. Firing has been difficult and very slow because firefighters are working into the prevailing wind; great care has to be taken that firing operations don't spread north but instead accomplish what they are trying to achieve: setting up a solid containment line. Securing this northernmost perimeter is key to beginning work in Division MM. So if winds allow, more burning out will proceed today, focused on Buckhorn Basin, Emigrant Canyon and Marble Canyon. If winds don't allow, crews will focus more on structure protection at local ranches.

Mop-up work continues along the contained western perimeter and in Chiricahua National Monument. Whitetail Canyon is cooling; the danger there has probably passed. Crews working in the burnt areas will be rehabilitating any damage from suppression efforts. The Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team has arrived and begins its work today. They will identify the highest priority areas for rehabilitation.

The big repeater in the Rodeo area being used for radio communications will be moved today closer to Bowie, because the primary need is now at the north end of the Chiricahuas.

Competition for fire crews and other resources is becoming more intense as other fires menace the region. Horseshoe Two currently has 1335 fire personnel. Crews currently on the job were asked whether they are interested in extending their work period from the normal 14 days to 21 or even 30 days. The need is extreme this year.

Bill Edwards confirmed to me this morning that the Monument Fire in the Huachuca Mountains has again jumped Highway 92 at Stump Canyon. At last report, it was roaring toward the San Pedro River, but has been held south of Hereford Road. As our neighboring mountain range, the Huachucas will be subject to the same extreme fire behavior and red flag conditions today that are expected for the Chiricahuas.

The Monument Fire has burned 18,580 acres and is 15% contained. There has been a big, much-needed jump in the number of fire personnel on the job, up now to 764. At the north end of the fire, a line is being prepared from Hunter Canyon to Carr Canyon. Forest Road 4781 is being prepared for a potential burnout. Another meeting to inform the Sierra Vista community of progress on the Monument Fire will be held this evening at 6 PM at the Windemere Hotel.


  1. Narca
    Thank you for all the wonderful information! While I live in Santa Fe, NM, my heart has always been in this part of Arizona. My husband and I both love it there and are heart broken to see the devastation. I appreciate your reports and information. Thank you Thank you Thank you

  2. Stumbled upon your report today.....If the winds did not change that Sunday Fort Bowie and my ranch would have burnt up!