As we thought we were seeing an end to the fire and its attendant stresses (with containment being predicted for June 22), the Horseshoe Two Fire has broken free of containment lines to move across Rock Creek Canyon and northeast toward Paradise, East Whitetail Canyon, and Chiricahua National Monument. The Monument is temporarily closed to visitors, and residents of Paradise and Whitetail are being evacuated––again, in the case of Paradise. One Whitetail resident was told yesterday that the fire was "still a day away" from her home.
Unexpected high winds caused the fire to jump to the north side of Rock Canyon, generating flame lengths 200 feet high in a veritable firestorm. (At the start of the fire on May 8, Barney Tomberlin––one of Portal's volunteer firemen who tackled the new conflagration––also estimated those initial flames to be 200 feet high and the convection column of smoke to be 20,000 feet high.)
Those appalling flames released embers that caused two new fires to start near Saulsbury Saddle, more than a mile and a half from the containment lines. One of those new fires had grown to 400 acres by yesterday morning.
Firefighters had to disengage from working the line in Rustler Park yesterday because the danger was too great. (Thus far, there have only been 7 injuries, thankfully all minor.)
News from the southwest part of the fire was better: the burnout along a 6-mile stretch of Tex Canyon Road was finished yesterday. That part of the perimeter is more secure, although smoke from the operation was very heavy and contributed to the pall that continues to shroud the northern end of the Chiricahuas, making breathing very uncomfortable and difficult for residents there.
The overall fire size is now 86,140 acres and is considered 50% contained (a drop from yesterday's 75% containment figure). The fire crews had begun to scale back, and now 825 personnel remain of the 900+ that were here a few days ago. With the new menace from the fire, will that scaling back continue?
When a crisis is viewed from a distance (right now, South Carolina), questions multiply. If any of our Portal friends send more information today, I'll post it.
What friends have been sending me is a link to the New York Times article questioning whether the fire was started by illegal immigrants. In the strictest sense, it is an accurate article. The only proof is circumstantial. However, the article also seems to diminish and discount the actual, daily effects of illegal immigration and smuggling on our communities, among them the settlements in and around the Chiricahua Mountains.
I would like to challenge the New York Times to send a reporter to live in one of our Border communities for a year, interacting frequently with Border Patrol, and then to write an investigative article about the real problems caused by illegal traffic of both humans and drugs. It sounds like Pulitzer Prize material to me.