Friday, June 3, 2011

The Long Siege Lengthens

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.

1 comment:

  1. Being a licensed pilot and CFI who flies a type of aircraft favored by smugglers, I am a constant source of intense interest to the Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security. I have been followed by aircraft, as well as ground vehicles, from both agencies while flying in the boot heel of New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Both agencies (as well as the military) are also frequent visitors to my websites. It has been my experience that both agencies are actively engaged in border issues. I frequently see Border Patrol vehicles on the road leading to the property and always invite them to drive the estate when they are in the area. An open door policy seems a good mechanism to promote increased surveillance by the Border Patrol which in turn decreases opportunities for illegal activity. The same can be said for tourism, more folks out using the resource (Chiricahua Mountains) means more eyes and less opportunity for illegal activities.

    I believe the New York Times article is appropriate since it provides some balance to the current view concerning the source of the fire but does not mention that the claims of causation are easily testable. If illegal immigration and/or smuggling is the source of these fires then there should be a statistically significant positive correlation between the amount of illegal activity and wild fires in the southwest. I would think this would be of interest to the official agencies since 1. People are engaging in a specific prosecutable criminal activity and 2. It would be an argument for increased funding to certain federal agencies. I have seen no such supporting evidence and the article specifically cites 4 instances of wild fires (in areas with heavy illegal traffic) that were blamed on illegal immigration and smuggling but upon investigation were the result of local activities. I hope an official determination is made with respect to the cause of the fire, but will keep all options open until a specific determination is made.