20 Jun 2010, 2:14pm
The 2010 Fire Season
by admin

Kaibab NF Responds Poorly to Eagle Rock Fire

The Eagle Rock Fire [here] was discovered by local residents last Tuesday two miles west of Spring Valley, AZ. The fire was less than 10 acres when reported, but the Kaibab National Forest failed to respond for nearly 18 hours. By then winds had whipped the fire into a major conflagration.

Last evening the Eagle Rock Fire was estimated to be 3,420 acres, with 626 personnel fighting the fire under the direction of the Northern Arizona Type 2 Incident Management Team. Over $1.6 million has been spent on suppression so far. If the Kaibab NF had responded with rapid initial attack when the fire was reported, the South Fork Fire could have been kept under 50 acres with suppression costs under $100,000.

Forty homes are threatened; about a quarter of those were evacuated. The evacuations have been lifted as the NAZ 2 IMT has the fire 50% contained. Residents are unhappy, however, with the delayed response (note that some of the statistics in the following news article are dated):

Residents: Forest Service blew it with wildfire response

by CYNDY COLE, Arizona Daily Sun, June 19, 2010 [here]

U.S. Forest Service officials headed to meet a displeased crowd in Parks on Friday evening as 533 firefighters continued to work a 3,415-acre wildfire 11 miles north in Spring Valley.

Evacuations had been mostly lifted as of midday Friday, and firefighters were building lines on the fire’s steep southwestern slopes.

Firefighting costs on the blaze — believed to have been started by lightning — were at $400,000 and growing as of Friday morning.

Spring Valley residents complained on Friday that their early reports of a wildfire went unanswered Tuesday evening, before wind-whipped flames charred a thousand acres Wednesday and threatened 40 structures.

As many as a half-dozen people may have called in the fire to the dispatch center, according to residents contacted Friday by the Daily Sun.

Kaibab National Forest officials contend they received fewer calls to the dispatch center’s voicemail system and that callers should have been dialing 911 instead.


One resident who is upset is Bob Rike, whose friend, Bill Griffin, was hiking near Eagle Rock Tuesday evening and spotted a small wildfire.

Griffin told Rike, who said he reported the fire to the Kaibab National Forest that evening.

Rike’s phone message, left at about 7:30 p.m., sat in voicemail for about 12 hours until a Kaibab National Forest employee arrived to check it the next morning, then called Rike asking for more directions.

“I told them where it was again. And 30 minutes later a man called me and said, ‘You reported this fire this morning and I can’t find it,’” Rike said.

Another resident told Rike he had given the firefighters coordinates to the fire and directions, taken with a global-positioning unit.

Then, Griffin agreed to meet firefighters on Spring Valley Road to lead them to the fire.

“When they met there, Bill was looking at the smoke, and he said to the man ‘Look, there’s the fire. Do you see it now?’ And he said, ‘Oh, (expletive),’” said Rike. …


For Mayhew and several others, this latest fire was disappointing.
Mayhew reported another fire on forest land near his house last year. He and his wife fought it for an hour before the nearby fire watchtower saw it.
“We went out and put it out and someone showed up after I put it out. This is typical,” he said. “… I was thinking, ‘How could the lookout not see that? It’s right there.’”

During the very large Pumpkin fire some years before that burned toward Highway 180, Mayhew and another person reported the fire, then headed to where it was burning, waiting for a response.

“We just sat there for an hour or two, but nobody showed up, and we left,” he said.
So when he heard about the fire on Wednesday, he called the Coconino National Forest instead of the Kaibab, hoping for a different response. …

In other fire news the Medano Fire [here] has grown to 4,312 acres and is burning fiercely in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. The Medano Fire was ignited by lightning two weeks ago at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The National Park Service toyed with the fire, letting it burn from 11 acres on June 9 to 300 acres on June 16. Then on the 17th the fire blew up in strong winds and jumped out of the park into the national forest. The Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 IMT has been called in. $Millions will be spent on a fire that could have been put out with a garden hose.

The South Fork Fire [here] near Valles Caldera National Preserve [here] northwest of Los Alamos, New Mexico, is now over 13,000 acres. Although over 500 firefighting personnel are engaged under the direction of the Arizona Central West Type II IMT, only half of the South Fork Fire is firelined. The other half will be allowed to burn unchecked. From the fire report:

Containment of the fire will not occur until Monsoon Season arrives with three days of substantial wetting rains.

To date over $4.3 million has been spent partially suppressing the fire. Interestingly, on June 24 the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing on S. 3452, a bill to designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve as a unit of the National Park System. One issue is the change that would occur in fire management from USFS to NPS. Short story: it would get even worse.

So far this fire season the largest fires have been in Alaska where over 850,000 acres have burned this Spring. The weather has been cold and rainy, yet massive fires have erupted from lightning storms. Some have even burned over permafrost. Lesson learned? Fires burn where there are sufficient fuels. Climate has nothing to do with it, and weather is not much of a factor either, other than lightning and wind.

Year-to-date the National Interagency Fire Center reports 1,331,117 acres burned nationally. The ten-year average to-date is 1,356,267 acres. Excluding the Alaska fires, 2010 has been a relatively mild and late fire season so far. Knock on wood.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta