Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Firefighters had a partial line across the Schultz fire's steep southern end Wednesday, after slow growth on Tuesday and light winds.
The line is significant because it clears the way for them to block fingers of fire reaching toward the San Francisco Peaks on the fire's 8-mile-long western side.
Hot shot crews have hiked in to fight fire on that western front, which lies far from major roads.
Wednesday's biggest event was the return of hundreds of residents who had fled their Timberline and Wupatki Trails homes on Sunday to evacuate from the fire.
Some of the plans and developments for firefighting, according to Miller:
-- The fire's largest area of growth from Tuesday to Wednesday was on the northern end near cinder pits and Forest Road 418, partly due to backburns set to keep fire out of Lockett Meadow proper.
-- Firefighters are directly attacking lines of fire creeping up the southeastern shoulders of Doyle Peak, one of the San Francisco Peaks. They're sometimes fighting fire in pockets of snow.
-- Much of Sugarloaf Peak has now burned in the wildfire, and aerial ignition of the remainder of that peak was planned on Wednesday.
-- These areas now targeted for controlled burns form the eastern entryway to the San Francisco Peaks and Inner Basin.
-- On the fire's southern side, line was being dug by hand on Wednesday.
-- On the western side, controlled burns were planned for more of Schultz Peak, to create a defensible line, Miller said.
-- Hot shot crews were camping in Lockett Meadow to fight fire, and near Schultz Peak, north of Schultz Tank.
-- Building fire line was somewhat difficult on the fire's southern end, due to steep terrain, fallen trees and loose rock.
-- Maps of the fire's progression show the vast majority of what burned had burned on Sunday, and that the fire has grown much less in following days.
-- The fire is slowing down when it hits stands of aspen, and in mixed-conifer, which lie higher on the Peaks. It is still burning intensely in the lower-elevation stands of ponderosa pine.
Worst-case scenarios still have the fire growing to 24,000 acres, or 38 square miles, costing $8 million to fight, and continuing until July 10.
Firefighters' next worry might sound counterintuitive: The start of seasonal monsoon rains.
Fire crews are now mapping the fire's severity, and planning for how to rehabilitate the more severely burned areas before summer rainstorms.
"When the rain comes, there're going to be some pretty serious issues there if we don't get ahead of it," with regards to flooding and erosion, said Rick Miller, operations section chief of the federal team managing the fire.
Some of the drainages off seriously charred Schultz Peak, for example, run for miles into Timberline.
Views of that peak were evident Wednesday from Timberline, showing heavy burns and an exposed Waterline Road used to access city water supplies in Inner Basin.
Soils severely burned in wildfires can become "hydrophobic" -- literally "water-fearing" -- and immediately shed every drop that falls on them.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
On a more positive side, many of the evacuated will be allowed to return home later this morning (per radio news reports), and highway 89 has semi-reopened. Also, Lockett Meadow has been spared, so far.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The wildfire now burning northeast of Schultz Pass is larger in area than the whole base of Mount Elden. And it could overrun Lockett Meadow at the foot of the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks, say fire officials, who plan to spend at least a week fighting it. Lockett Meadow is a truly stunningly beautiful place with huge Aspen groves known for their dramatic fall foliage, and I hope that the fire spares it.
There are reported to be over 800 firefighters on location, and slurry bombers are flying overhead constantly. We're all very grateful for these folks, who are the best in the business.
Of side interest, the fire was initially spotted by a good friend of mine who works as a forest service lookout. He's retired from actual firefighting, but has many decades of experience and a ton of expertise on wildfires, and his outlook is grim. Between the wind and the rugged terrain, it's going to be very difficult to get this fire under control.
Here's a satellite photo showing the smoke from the fire already extending all the way to the four corners region. That's a hell of a lot of smoke, and the steady wind has carried it quite a distance.
Just a quick note for those who expressed concerns for my safety, I'm fine. My little apartment is in the heart of downtown, and there's an awful lot of civilization between me and the wilderness.
Today is going to be another windy day, although hopefully less windy than yesterday, so it's far from over.
Monday, June 21, 2010
One odd, sad twist from the two fires: the Hardy fire forced the evacuation of our local humane society animal shelter. All the animals were moved to the 'Second Chance' animal shelter. Now the Schultz fire has forced the evacuation of that shelter, and an emergency animal shelter is being set up at the county fairgrounds. Tough couple of days for all those critters, but it's even worse for the wildlife.
(another slurry bomber just flew over my apartment)
It's a very bad day for those of us with breathing problems.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
It's gonna be a scary summer until the monsoon rains get here.
Added: The Hardy fire was caused by a stupid camper (now under arrest) having an unsafe campfire. No word yet on the cause of the Schultz fire, but I'm certain it's human caused. The only question is if it was arson or idiocy.
A wildfire south of Interstate 40 in Flagstaff Saturday that grew to between 500 and 600 acres forced the evacuation of 170 homes and temporarily closed Little America Hotel.
No structures were damaged or destroyed, and no injuries were reported.
About 150 personnel, including all on- and off-duty Flagstaff firefighters, responded to the blaze, dubbed the Hardy fire. Crews from Summit, Highlands and the U.S. Forest Service also responded.
Two air tankers and three heavy-duty helicopters made repeated slurry and water drops on the fire, which spread northeast from the ignition point through the ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forest as wind gusts reached 35 mph.
A total of 11 people evacuated from the Sinagua Heights and Herold Ranch neighborhoods were expected to spend the night at Mount Elden Middle School, where the Red Cross was operating an emergency overnight shelter.
The Coconino Humane Association south of Butler Avenue was evacuated and about 60 animals were taken to the Second Chance Center for Animals in Doney Park, where they remained overnight.
Residents of Foxglenn, Continental and Amberwood received emergency telephone notification to be on standby for evacuation, but those neighborhoods were not evacuated by the time winds died down Saturday night.
The local NPR station is reporting that the size of the fire has been downgraded to about 400 acres, and that most of the evacuated will be allowed to return home today.
I want to give a big shout out to our local firefighters (I know quite a few of them), who are the best in the business. Great job, and all of Flagstaff thanks you!