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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
    Associated Press Writer
    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - While dozens of firefighters tried to
    contain a wildfire that devastated a mountaintop community earlier
    this summer, a smaller group was focused on a much more delicate
    but nevertheless important task.
    Investigators using a combination of science and old-fashioned
    detective work were looking for clues that would answer the key
    questions: How did the Aspen fire start? And why?
    The Aspen fire began June 17 and grew to eventually cover nearly
    85,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest before being contained
    July 15. It destroyed 322 homes in and around the vacation hamlet
    of Summerhaven.
    With any wildfire or building fire, investigators must zero in
    on the point of origin before hoping to determine the cause.
    In the Aspen fire, a lookout tower spotter saw smoke and
    provided coordinates when the fire was small. Firefighters were on
    the scene when the blaze had spread across less than 30 acres.
    "So right there you've got a visual," said Suzanne Romero, a
    Forest Service fire investigator attached to the Coconino National
    Forest in northern Arizona. "You can start at that point."
    Then comes more meticulous work. Investigators walk in clockwise
    and counterclockwise circles near where the fire is believed to
    have started, looking for clues. These can include charring, the
    angle of charring, how hot the fire burned, and what happened to
    nearby trees, Romero said.
    Slope and char marks tell investigators the fire's direction,
    she said.
    Detective David Conto, a Pima County sheriff's fire
    investigator, said the angles and depths of the charring also
    provide clues.
    "Different angles with different slopes mean different things:
    what direction the fire's moving, whether it's backing down ... or
    going up-slope," Conto said.
    Then there are things like small materials on the ground,
    including grass stems, pine cones, rocks and pine needles.
    "You can look at and see which way the fire is moving or comes
    from based on which way the stems fall, or the char on the rocks,
    or the way the little grass stubs come up," he said.
    At some location the indicators point in different directions,
    and "that starts gearing you to thinking here's the area of
    confusion, which is possibly where the fire started," she said.
    Investigators also map their findings on sketch pads.
    "You keep narrowing your ring of the area of size that you're
    looking at," Conto said. "You're tracking back the area of origin
    to the smallest area you can determine."
    On the Aspen fire, investigators narrowed the start zone to a
    900-square-foot area within 10 days and concluded that the fire was
    caused by humans, ruling out lightning.
    Romero said 99 percent of the time she can tell a lightning
    strike by its unique characteristics, from a fresh strike on a tree
    or widely scattered pieces of fresh wood, to dripping pitch or a
    tree blown in half and burning midway up the trunk.
    Aspen fire investigators found no signs characteristic of
    lightning strikes.
    But they have yet to settle on a culprit. They haven't concluded
    whether the fire was arson or an accident, and they haven't found
    the person responsible.
    On some fires, investigators may determine through a sighting or
    contact that someone was camping, and track the person through
    records.
    Through interviews, "people can all of a sudden realize that
    they saw something or realize they may have made a mistake," Conto
    said.
    Investigators identified several people who were on a trail the
    day the fire started on Mount Lemmon, northeast of Tucson. None are
    considered suspects, but they may have seen something helpful,
    Forest Service spokeswoman Heidi Schewel said.
    She said the investigation remains very active.
    "They continue to move forward," Schewel said. "They will
    continue until they reach a dead end or until they identify the
    person or persons responsible."
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    7/27

    PHOENIX (AP) - Firefighters have contained the 866-acre New fire
    and are on track to also contain the nearby River fire, officials
    said Sunday.
    The two lightning-caused fires burned desert brush in the Tonto
    National Forest north of Phoenix.
    The River fire had burned about 270 acres, and was 75 percent
    contained Sunday afternoon.
    Forest spokesman Dave Killebrew said one Hot Shot crew continued
    to work that fire and expected full containment by Sunday evening.
    No homes or structures were threatened.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 24th

    PHOENIX (AP) - Two lightning-caused fires had burned about 1,080
    acres of desert brush north of Phoenix in the Tonto National Forest
    by Thursday.
    The largest of the fires had burned about 830 acres, said Dave
    Killebrew, a Tonto National Forest spokesman.
    Killebrew said that the blaze had jumped a fire line in one spot
    and charred about 30 acres.
    Firefighters "were able to get in there and they kept it from
    getting beyond about 30 acres," Killebrew said.
    It was 5 percent contained, and officials expect full
    containment by Saturday.
    The second fire had burned about 250 acres.
    Both blazes started Wednesday.
    Neither fire was threatening any structures. The nearest
    structures included a few homes and a mining operation about two
    miles away.

    BLUE RIVER COMPLEX FIRE:
    ALPINE, Ariz. (AP) - The Blue River Complex fire, which includes
    two lightning-caused fires and a blaze contained in June, was 70
    percent contained Thursday.
    Officials reopened the previously threatened Hannagan Meadow
    Lodge and part of Highway 191, which leads to the lodge, on
    Wednesday. A 10-mile stretch of the highway, three campgrounds and
    an administrative site remained closed.
    The fire, which was burning pine and mixed conifers in the
    Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, has cost $5.9 million to fight
    so far.
    About 430 fire personnel monitored the fire and cleared away
    fuels along the highway Thursday.
    The Steeple and Largo portions of the fire complex, which
    started July 13, remained at about 7,900 acres. The contained
    Thomas fire was 10,618 acres.

    KINISHBA FIRE
    WHITERIVER, Ariz. - A 24,500-acre fire on the Fort Apache Indian
    Reservation was 90 percent contained Thursday.
    Crews patrolled lines and did mop-up work but were no longer
    fighting the Kinishba fire.
    A rehabilitation team dropped grass seedlings and hay over areas
    burned by the fire. The team also assessed potential flood danger
    to residents of the Cedar Creek and Canyon Day communities near
    Whiteriver.
    Burned soil in the area may not absorb moisture when rainstorms
    arrive, which could cause flooding and erosion.
    The lightning-sparked fire has cost $5.3 million to fight since
    it began July 13.
    The blaze began east of the ignition point for last summer's
    Rodeo-Chediski fire, which charred 469,000 acres and destroyed 491
    homes in surrounding communities.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
    Kinishba fire: http://www.fireground.com/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 23rd

    PHOENIX (AP) - Three lightning-caused wildfires burned more than
    1,000 acres in the Tonto National Forest but didn't threaten any
    homes or buildings, officials said.
    The fires on the remote New River Mesa about 25 miles northeast
    of Phoenix were first reported around midday Wednesday.
    The largest of the three grew to about 800 acres.
    While crews worked to build a break around the fire, airplanes
    and helicopters dropped retardant and water on it.
    The closest buildings were on a ranch 1½ miles away, and the
    fire burned in the opposite direction.
    Beside that private property, the rest of the land on that fire
    belongs to the Tonto National Forest.
    Rough terrain prevented crews from fighting a 250-acre blaze
    about four miles away.
    The third fire was contained at one acre.
    The fires burned in dry chaparral patches but weren't near tall
    trees.

    KINISHBA FIRE
    WHITERIVER, Ariz. - A 24,000-acre fire on the Fort Apache Indian
    Reservation was 90 percent contained Wednesday.
    Fire crews patrolled lines and did mop-up work but were no
    longer fighting the Kinishba fire, which was helped by heavy
    monsoon rains.
    "It looks real good. We're expecting more rain," said Robert
    Vataha, fire dispatcher for the reservation.
    Officials expected full containment by Sunday.
    A rehabilitation team began dropping grass seedlings and hay
    over areas burned by the fire. The team also assessed potential
    flood danger to residents of the Cedar Creek and Canyon Day
    communities near Whiteriver.
    Burned soil in the area may not absorb moisture when rainstorms
    arrive, which could cause flooding.
    The lightning-sparked fire has cost $5.3 million to fight since
    it began July 13.
    The blaze began east of the ignition point for last summer's
    Rodeo-Chediski fire, which charred 469,000 acres and destroyed 491
    homes in surrounding communities.

    BLUE RIVER COMPLEX FIRE:
    ALPINE, Ariz. (AP) - A lodge and part of a highway that had been
    threatened by a fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest were
    reopened Wednesday.
    The Blue River Complex fire, which includes two lightning-caused
    fires and a blaze contained in June, was 70 percent contained
    Wednesday.
    Officials reopened Hannagan Meadow Lodge and part of Highway
    191, which leads to the lodge. A 10-mile stretch of the highway
    remained closed.
    Three campgrounds and an administrative site also remained
    closed.
    The Steeple and Largo portions of the fire complex, which
    started July 13, decreased slightly to about 7,971 acres. The
    contained Thomas fire remained at 10,618 acres.
    About 550 fire personnel were working on the blaze, but many
    were expected to be sent home by late Wednesday.
    No estimated containment date had been set.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
    Kinishba fire: http://www.fireground.com/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    7/22

    WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) - A 24,000-acre fire on the Fort Apache
    Indian Reservation was 75 percent contained on Tuesday.
    Fire crews patrolled lines and did mop-up after conducting a
    successful burnout operation designed to deny the fire fuel in the
    Big Canyon area Monday.
    One fire official had previously said that firefighters hoped
    for full containment Wednesday, but no official containment date
    has been set. The Kinishba fire, which started with a lightning
    strike on July 13, has cost $5.3 million to fight so far.
    A rehabilitation team has arrived to assess the fire's damage,
    which could include flood danger to residents of the Cedar Creek
    community about 5 miles west of Whiteriver, said Chadeen Palmer, a
    spokeswoman for the crew fighting the fire.
    Burned soil in the area may not absorb moisture when rainstorms
    arrive, which can cause flooding, Palmer said.
    Though the fire had come within a quarter mile of some houses
    last week, no homes were damaged and none were threatened Tuesday.
    About 400 people were still working on the fire, but the number
    was expected to decrease to about 200 by late Tuesday.
    On Friday, residents who had been evacuated for four days were
    allowed to return to their Whiteriver-area homes.
    The blaze began east of the ignition point for last summer's
    Rodeo-Chediski fire, which charred 469,000 acres and destroyed 491
    homes in surrounding communities.

    BLUE RIVER COMPLEX FIRE:
    ALPINE, Ariz. (AP) - The Blue River Complex fire, which includes
    two lightning-caused fires and a blaze contained in June, was 65
    percent contained Tuesday.
    The eastern Arizona fires were being fought in the
    Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The Steeple and Largo portions
    of the fire complex, which started July 13, remained at about 8,014
    acres.
    Some portions of the fire were in terrain too steep and rugged
    for firefighters to build containment lines, said Debbie Santiago,
    a fire information officer.
    The contained 10,618-acre Thomas fire section was being
    monitored.
    Two campgrounds, the Hannagan Meadow Lodge and an administrative
    site were threatened.
    "The fire is creeping through the cooler fuels like a
    prescribed burn," Santiago said Tuesday. "It's cleaning the
    forest floor with minimal damage."
    About 620 fire personnel were working on the blaze.
    No estimated containment date had been set.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
    Kinishba fire: http://www.fireground.com/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    7/21

    WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) - Firefighters, aided by rain and higher
    humidity, were making headway in their effort to contain the
    24,000-acre wildfire on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
    The Kinishba fire, which has cost $4.9 million to fight so far,
    was 75 percent contained Monday night.
    "It's been raining off and on real good for about the last
    three hours. It appears that most of the fire got a good bit of
    rain," Peacock said Monday night.
    Kami Goklish, a spokeswoman for the team fighting the fire, said
    crews hoped to have the fire fully contained by Wednesday.
    Peacock, however, reserved judgment and said he didn't want to
    predict when crews might have the fire contained.
    Though the fire had come within a quarter mile of some houses
    last week, no homes were damaged and none were threatened Monday.
    About 620 people were still working on the fire, but some crews
    were expected to leave Monday, said Goklish.
    On Friday, residents who had been evacuated for four days were
    allowed to return to their Whiteriver-area homes. As many as 5,000
    people had been evacuated.
    The lightning-caused fire began July 13 east of the ignition
    point for last summer's Rodeo-Chediski fire, which charred 469,000
    acres and destroyed 491 homes in surrounding communities.

    BLUE RIVER COMPLEX FIRE:
    ALPINE, Ariz. (AP) - The Blue River Complex fire, which includes
    two lightning-caused fires and a blaze contained in June, was 60
    percent contained Monday.
    The fires were being fought in the Apache-Sitgreaves National
    Forest. The Steeple and Largo portions of the fire complex, which
    started July 13, grew to about 8,014 acres and the contained
    10,618-acre Thomas fire section was being monitored.
    Two campgrounds, the Hannagan Meadow Lodge and an administrative
    site were threatened.
    A 15-mile stretch of Highway 191 was also closed, said Debbie
    Santiago, a fire information officer.
    The blaze had threatened about 30 structures last week, but mild
    winds and fire lines along the upper Blue River eliminated the
    threat.
    About 585 fire personnel were working on the blaze.
    No estimated containment date had been set.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
    Kinishba fire: http://www.fireground.com/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    7/20

    WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) - There was minimal growth to a
    21,500-acre wildfire Sunday after thunderstorms brought rain and
    hail to eastern Arizona.
    Weekend storms also caused two new lightning fires southwest of
    the Kinishba fire totaling about 7 acres. Those fires were quickly
    contained, said Chadeen Palmer, a spokeswoman for the crew fighting
    the fire.
    The Kinishba fire, which has cost $4.4 million to fight so far,
    was 60 percent contained Sunday.
    Though the fire had come within a quarter mile of some houses
    earlier in the week, no homes were damaged and none were
    threatened.
    Crews focused Sunday on the northern end of the blaze, building
    fire lines and conducting burnout operations. They connected their
    lines to the Rainbow fire area, which burned in 1999, said Wendell
    Peacock, a spokesman for firefighters working on the blaze.
    On Saturday, crews began a slow burnout operation in Big Canyon
    to keep the fire from blazing through the wide canyon.
    Peacock said rain in the canyon had hindered burnouts in that
    northwest corner of the fire.
    "We want to minimize flooding and runoff in Big Canyon," he
    said.
    Peacock added that storms over the weekend had already caused
    some runoff. He said more rains were predicted for the area, adding
    that showers could either help or hurt work on the fire.
    "It would be nice if we could do a little more with our
    burnouts, but if rain puts out the fire, then we don't have to
    worry about that," Peacock said.
    A Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation team has begun assessing
    damage and developing a rehabilitation strategy for the burned
    area.
    More than 900 people had been working on the fire, but officials
    said almost 400 were released Saturday and Sunday because officials
    are confident they have the upperhand with the blaze. Some fire
    crews were sent straight from the Kinishba fire to the Blue River
    Complex fire also burning in eastern Arizona, Peacock said.
    Waning fire activity also prompted officials to allow residents
    on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to return home.
    The 5,000 people who fled the fire were allowed back in
    Whiteriver on Friday, four days after the blaze caused their
    evacuation.
    The lightning-caused fire began Sunday east of the ignition
    point for last summer's Rodeo-Chediski fire, the largest wildfire
    in state history.
    That blaze devastated timber on the reservation, charred 469,000
    acres and destroyed 491 homes in surrounding communities.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
    Kinishba fire: http://www.fireground.com/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 17th

    HANNAGAN MEADOW, Ariz. (AP) - Fire officials evacuated people
    from two sites near a 4,000-acre wildfire in the Apache-Sitgreaves
    National Forest on Thursday.
    Officials didn't know how many people were evacuated from a U.S.
    Forest Service administration building and Hannagan Meadow Lodge,
    which has several cabins and a gas station.
    The Steeple fire also forced the closure of Highway 191 for an
    86-mile stretch between Alpine and Morenci in eastern Arizona. The
    blaze burned about a quarter mile along the highway Thursday, and
    firefighters tried to keep the fire from moving west to the other
    side of the highway, said Dorman McGann, spokesman for the
    Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
    About 100 firefighters were aided by three dozers and two
    helicopters that dropped water over the blaze.
    No other structures were threatened. Nearby campgrounds and part
    of the Blue Primitive area, which is used mostly for hiking, were
    closed.
    None of the lightning-sparked fire, which started Sunday five
    miles east of Hannagan Meadow, was contained.

    LARGO FIRE
    ALPINE, Ariz. (AP) - Homes previously threatened by a 1,200-acre
    fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest were not in immediate
    danger Thursday afternoon, officials said.
    The Largo fire had threatened 30 structures early Thursday, but
    the blaze wasn't moving toward the homes. High winds up to 35 mph
    were expected in the afternoon but they never came, said Dorman
    McGann, spokesman for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
    Officials at the Greenlee County Sheriff's Department estimated
    that about 60 people lived in the homes and were prepared to leave
    if the U.S. Forest Service decided to evacuate the area.
    "They're not in a real major threat," McGann said.
    About 100 firefighters built lines along the upper Blue River to
    keep the blaze from reaching the structures, which were about a
    half mile from the Largo fire.
    Part of the Blue Primitive area, which is used mostly for
    hiking, was closed.
    The fire was 15 percent contained, and officials expected to
    extinguish it by Aug. 1.
    Lightning started the fire 15 miles south of Alpine on Sunday.

    WEST FIRE
    SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. - Fire crews mopped up hot areas of the
    1,100-acre fire in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation
    Area on Thursday.
    The fire was about 95 percent contained early Thursday, with
    full containment expected by the end of the day, said Lorraine
    Buck, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.
    No structures were threatened by the blaze.

    POPCORN FIRE
    GLOBE, Ariz. (AP) - Fire crews contained a 426-acre fire near
    the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation on Thursday.
    No damage was caused by the Popcorn fire, which burned primarily
    through juniper trees, said Velasquez W. Sneezy, spokesman for the
    Bureau of Indian Affairs.
    The blaze, which started Sunday, was in a remote area in Popcorn
    Canyon south of the Salt River.

    LAS CIENEGAS FIRES
    TUCSON, Ariz. - A group of three small fires burning in the Las
    Cienegas National Conservation Area were contained early Thursday.
    Lorraine Buck, a spokeswoman at the Bureau of Land Management,
    said crews working on the fires performed burnout operations to
    deny the fires fuel late Wednesday.
    The fires were contained at a total of 500 acres.


    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 16th

    By SARA THORSON
    Associated Press Writer
    WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) - Firefighters were concerned Wednesday
    about wind, lightning and a lack of rain as they battled a blaze
    that forced thousands of people to leave their homes on the Fort
    Apache Indian Reservation.
    The 14,250-acre blaze had gotten to within about a third of a
    mile of homes around Whiteriver, headquarters of the White Mountain
    Apache Tribe.
    Elsewhere in the Southwest, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado
    was closed to visitors for the second time in two years because of
    wildfires and authorities said Wednesday the flames threatened the
    park's historic ruins.
    As many as 5,000 people had fled their homes in Whiteriver and
    other communities on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
    Carrie Templin, a spokeswoman for the firefighters, said there
    was a potential for wind that could drive the Kinishba fire and
    thunderstorms that could produce lightning but little rain in the
    forested mountains of eastern Arizona.
    "If we have lightning, we'll definitely have (new) fires,"
    Templin said. Lightning started at least three new fires in the
    area Tuesday but they were quickly neutralized.
    The fire was started by lightning Sunday east of the starting
    point for last summer's Rodeo-Chediski fire, the largest wildfire
    in state history. Last year's fire charred 469,000 acres and
    destroyed 491 homes.
    The latest blaze had gotten to within four miles of a point that
    would trigger evacuations in Pinetop-Lakeside and mountain
    communities about 20 miles to the north, where the population
    swells to 30,000 in the summer.
    Lightning started at least six fires Tuesday in Mesa Verde, in
    the southwest corner of Colorado, and Assistant Superintendent
    Betty Janes said all visitors and the park's 30 to 50 residential
    employees were evacuated.
    Five of the fires were still burning Wednesday inside and
    outside the park. The total acreage burned was estimated at 200
    acres, said Larry Helmerick, fire information officer for the Rocky
    Mountain Area Coordination Center.
    Helmerick said the stone ruins were considered threatened, but
    didn't immediately have details on how they would be affected.
    In 2000, two wildfires charred more than a third of the park's
    52,000 acres, and a blaze in 2002 blackened more than 2,600 acres.
    The park holds some 25,000 archaeological sites left by an Indian
    culture that vanished more than 700 years ago. Its cliff dwellings
    date to the 1200s and pit houses date to the 500s.
    In Wyoming, the Snake River was reopened to recreational use
    Wednesday after being closed for three days because of fire. July
    is the peak business month for rafting operations and fishing
    outfitters, with as many as 8,000 people a day floating down the
    river.
    "I know they hit the river as fast as they could this
    morning," said Jay Kriss, Bridger-Teton National Forest spokesman.
    The 3,200-acre fire was 20 percent contained, Kriss said.
    Fires also were active in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada,
    Utah, Oregon and Washington, the National Interagency Fire Center
    said.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov
    Kinishba Fire: http://www.fireground.com/
    White Mountain Apache: http://www.wmat.nsn.us/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    Contained!

    Crews contain Aspen fire

    (Tucson-AP) -- Firefighters officially contained the Aspen fire
    this evening -- about a month after the blaze started.
    The fire in the Coronado National Forest spanned
    84-thousand-750-acres and destroyed 340 structures.
    Officials expect some flare-ups since a few warm spots remain.
    Firefighters are concerned about lightning forecast for the
    area. It could cause new blazes outside the Aspen fire's perimeter.
    A 20-person crew will remain on the scene to patrol and conduct
    mop up. Workers have already started spreading straw and seeds to
    help stabilize slopes.
    Costs for fighting the blaze are estimated at 16-point-3 (m)
    million.
    Investigators believe the blaze began near a trail southwest of
    Summerhaven. They do not know if the fire was an accident or if it
    was started intentionally.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    EXTREME!!

    By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
    Associated Press Writer
    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - With moisture in trees and other vegetation
    at record low levels, the potential for extreme fire behavior in
    Arizona is worse than last year, an expert fire analyst said
    Monday.
    "We are presently at record levels regarding extreme fire
    behavior potential," said Ron Moody of the federal interagency
    Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, N.M.
    Moody warned fire incident commanders in Arizona, New Mexico and
    West Texas about the situation in a fire behavior alert issued for
    the region.
    "I think it's very significant," Moody, a retired fuels
    specialist now working as a fire behavior analyst, said in a
    telephone interview.
    Arizona is at record levels for a key measurement that reveals
    how hot a fire can burn, he said.
    Called 'energy release component', or ERC, the index is used by
    wildland fire specialists and is considered the best indicator of
    the effects of long-term drying on fire behavior, he said.
    Combined with record ERCs and record lows for fuel moisture,
    massive numbers of still-standing trees killed by beetle
    infestations have created an unprecedented potential for extreme
    landscape scale fire, the advisory said.
    "When we have ignitions or ongoing fires, fuels are about as
    low as they can be, and basically the conditions are explosive,"
    Moody said.
    As an example, he cited explosive characteristics seen Monday in
    the Kinishba (pronounced kih-NEESH'-buh) fire in eastern Arizona's
    White Mountains, which forced the evacuation of several communities
    near Whiteriver on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
    "The Kinishba demonstrated some plume-dominated behavior today,
    and we're expecting some of the same tomorrow," he said.
    A plume-dominated fire is more unpredictable than a wind-driven
    fire, Moody said.
    It occurs with lower wind speeds, when a pyrocumulous cloud
    forms high above the fire - a gray plume that looks like a cumulous
    cloud - that sends wind gusts out of its bottom as the heat above
    cools off and falls, spreading fire in all directions, Moody said.
    ERC records are based on the date and time of year, and for
    Friday they were "the highest for that date that we have seen,"
    he said.
    "They're still over the record and will be. The ERC is
    basically driven by fuel moisture, and until we get some
    significant rain we're going to have problems."
    Moody's alert said that 27 of the 41 Arizona sites used by the
    center to record ERC data were above any previous ERC record for
    the date, with most above the 97th percentile and some "off the
    scale."
    The start of this year's rainy season has been late, which adds
    to the record-setting ERC levels.
    "We're not seeing a clear picture of a great monsoon period
    yet," said Dan Borsum, a National Weather Service meteorologist
    assigned to the Southwest Center.
    Tropical storm Claudette over the Gulf of Mexico is pushing dry
    air ahead of it across Mexico and western Texas which will
    compromise moist air pushing in behind a temperature-searing high
    pressure system now moving toward the Four Corners.
    But that migration also has been delayed because of a strong
    northerly jet stream, Borsum said.
    Temperatures are expected to remain above normal through Friday
    with humidity levels expected to stay about the same, he said.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush declared a disaster area Monday
    in stretches of Pima County burned by a major wildfire, making
    federal aid available to help repair and replace public facilities
    destroyed by the blaze.
    The declaration also allows counties across the state to apply
    to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for aid to help cut down
    trees in overgrown forests to help reduce the threat of future
    wildfires.
    "This is a very important first step to rebuild Summerhaven
    because we will get that funding to get the roads and utilities
    back because any rebuilding of the community has to start with that
    infrastructure," said Paul Allvin, spokesman for Gov. Janet
    Napolitano, who filed the request.
    The White House said damage surveys continue in areas outside
    Pima County and more counties and additional forms of assistance
    could be designated.
    Under the president's declaration, FEMA will cover 75 percent of
    the costs to rebuild public buildings, utilities and roads. The
    county is responsible for the rest.
    "The big things were the infrastructure on the water and
    getting electricity going again, the fire department itself, and
    starting the work on rehabilitation and erosion control," said
    Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who was among the members of the Arizona
    delegation who pressed for the declaration.
    The Aspen blaze in the mountains near Tucson, Ariz., has
    blackened 84,750 and destroyed 340 buildings around Summerhaven
    since it ignited June 17. It is 90 percent contained and crews hope
    to have it fully contained by Tuesday.
    Authorities have issued a reward for information on 10 people
    who were in the area when the fire started.
    FEMA did not grant Napolitano's request for aid for private
    homeowners who lost property or incurred other costs as a result of
    the fire, because most of the costs of evacuation and temporary
    shelter were covered by groups like the American Red Cross, said
    Jean Baker, spokeswoman for FEMA's Region 9, which includes
    Arizona.
    In addition, 90 percent of the residences burned were covered by
    private insurance, and the vast majority were vacation or secondary
    homes, which do not qualify for FEMA aid, Baker said.
    Kyl said some assistance may still come through the Small
    Business Administration.
    Baker said a field office would be set up in Arizona shortly to
    process requests for assistance.
    "The presidential disaster declaration could not have come at a
    better time," said Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. "The fires have taken
    a considerable financial and emotional toll on those who have lost
    their homes or have been forced to move out of their homes. The
    disaster assistance will be much needed relief and will help the
    residents get back on their feet more quickly."
    Also on Monday, Kyl sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale
    Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman asking them to
    expedite fire-prevention efforts on 15,129 acres of Arizona
    forests.
    Kyl asked the secretaries to exercise new authority that exempts
    critical projects from the normal environmental studies and
    administrative appeals.
    "It is clear that we have another catastrophe that we can see
    coming," he wrote. "I urge both of you to take whatever actions
    are necessary to exercise immediately the authorities you possess
    to expedite treatment of the conditions now threatening the
    integrity of these forest ecosystems."

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 7th

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A rise in humidity calmed a wildfire
    burning a half-mile from an exclusive desert enclave Monday,
    greatly reducing the danger to dozens of houses, officials said.
    The same blaze destroyed more than 300 houses last month in and
    around the vacation hamlet of Summerhaven, high on Mount Lemmon. As
    of Monday, the fire had burned at least 81,000 acres in the
    mountains north of Tucson.
    Humidity between 30 percent and 50 percent extinguished flames
    in some areas above the homes in Ventana Canyon and cooled the fire
    in others, said Brad Smith, a fire behavior analyst with the team
    fighting the blaze.
    Firefighters used aircraft to drop water and retardant along the
    fire's leading edge, but because of the change in the fire's
    behavior, they dropped plans to burn away vegetation uphill from
    the homes.
    Still, "there's all sorts of things that could happen," said
    Duane Archuleta, an operations chief for the fire team.
    On Sunday, residents were urged to evacuate about 200 homes, and
    about 250 guests had to leave a resort hotel as the wind drove the
    fire downhill into Ventana Canyon, on the edge of Tucson.
    Officials said the voluntary evacuations were requested in part
    so firefighters would not have to worry about residents in the
    area. Fire officials expressed confidence that the homes would be
    safe because many of them are made of stone and brick.
    In northern New Mexico, crews planned to bulldoze a firebreak to
    protect Taos Canyon - site of summer and year-round homes,
    bed-and-breakfast inns and rental cabins - from a 2,500-acre blaze
    near Taos Pueblo.
    The southern edge of the lightning-caused fire was a few miles
    from the canyon, fire officials said.
    Elsewhere, fires were active in Colorado, Idaho, Montana,
    Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington. So far this year, wildfires
    have charred about 924,000 acres, less than one-third the acreage
    burned during the same period last year, according to the National
    Interagency Fire Center.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov
    http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/aspen.html

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    July 6th

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Residents of about 200 homes and guests at
    a resort hotel were urged to evacuate as flames from a wildfire
    licked at an exclusive enclave on the city's northern fringe.
    The voluntary evacuation notice of the homes in Ventana Canyon
    came Sunday after strong winds pushed the fire downhill faster than
    expected, fire officials said. Some 300 homes have already been
    destroyed.
    The fire, which started June 17 and has burned at least 70,000
    acres, skirted fire lines last week and burned six cabins between
    Friday night and early Saturday.
    The flames came about a half-mile from the nearest homes Sunday.
    Fire officials expressed confidence that the homes would be safe,
    at least partly because many are made of stone or brick.
    The area is a high desert enclave in the foothills of the Santa
    Catalina Mountains. It includes upscale homes and the 400-room
    Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, said George Heaney, a bureau chief
    with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
    Smoke roiled in ravines along the face of the mountains late
    Sunday afternoon. Helicopters dropped water as the flames moved
    downhill through rocky desert terrain.
    Sharon Swofford, loading bags into a car with her husband, said
    resort guests were set up with rooms at another Tucson resort.
    "We called last week about canceling. They said they weren't
    really concerned. When we checked in Friday night, they said not to
    worry," said Swofford, of Washington D.C. "It was fun watching
    the helicopters though."
    Sheriff's deputies knocked on doors to urge Ventana Canyon
    residents to evacuate.
    About half of those contacted said they would leave, said Sgt.
    Jim Ogden of the Pima County Sheriff's Department. A hotel
    spokeswoman didn't return a message seeking the number of guests on
    Sunday.
    Lines created by burnouts, clearing brush and thinning trees
    continued to hold Sunday around dozens of other homes and cabins,
    several youth camps, an observatory and communications towers
    operated by organizations including the Federal Aviation
    Administration.
    As the situation on top of the mountain looked better, the fire
    kept creeping down the mountain face toward the foothills.
    Officials said they could snuff it with helicopter water drops and
    backburns and that thin desert vegetation in the foothills would
    make the fire easy to fight if it approached homes.
    The fire also was about a half-mile from the visitor center at
    Sabino Canyon, a popular recreation area that was closed due to the
    fire.
    The human-caused fire destroyed 317 homes last month in and
    around the vacation hamlet of Summerhaven.
    In New Mexico, the southern edge of a 3,000-acre wildfire
    burning on Taos Pueblo land is commanding firefighters' attention
    after the blaze doubled in size Sunday.
    Crews Monday will work to build a dozer line between the
    Encebado Fire and Taos Canyon, where U.S. 64 passes summer and
    year-round homes, bed-and-breakfast inns and rental cabins,
    officials said.
    On Friday, the lightning-caused fire burned to within a
    half-mile of the village, which is one of New Mexico's major
    tourist draws.
    Elsewhere:
    - A fire on the Colville Indian Reservation in north-central
    Washington state swelled to 3,000 acres overnight, increasing its
    coverage area nearly 50 percent by Sunday.
    - A smaller fire in Washington consumed 700 acres on the Spokane
    Indian Reservation to the east, and up north in the Pasayten
    Wilderness, three fires covered a total of about 1,680 acres.
    - In central Oregon, three people died Sunday in a collision
    between a car and truck hauling fire equipment to a 600-acre
    wildfire, police said. Officials said they did not consider the
    fire to be the cause of the deaths.
    There have been no fire fatalities in the West so far this
    summer.
    Smaller fires were reported in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and
    Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center reported Sunday. So far
    this year, about 923,000 acres of brush, grass and forest have
    burned, less than one-third the acreage that burned during the same
    period last year, the center said.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) - A fire that burned close to a community
    of homes and cabins in the drought-stricken pine forest eight miles
    south of here was contained Sunday night, fire officials said.
    The Spruce fire quickly consumed 25 acres of Ponderosa pine and
    juniper near Walker, but firefighters were able to hold the blaze
    steady Sunday.
    "We lucked out," said Walker Fire Chief Jon Sumner. "It broke
    late in the evening and there was no wind to carry it."
    By Sunday morning the blaze was ringed entirely with lines that
    held throughout the day.
    No homes burned, but the fire backed up to private fences in
    some areas.
    About 100 residents were asked to evacuate. Those who left the
    area were allowed to return home Sunday night.
    About 60 firefighters worked the blaze. Helicopters also dropped
    water Sunday morning.
    "We got a lot of help real quick," Sumner said.
    Walker is a hodgepodge of 20-acre blocks in a former mining town
    south of Prescott, a city of 34,000. There are several hundred
    cabins and houses in the area, most surrounded by thick forest
    trees.
    The fire started on private land and burned six to 10 acres
    before jumping into the forest, said Gary Wittman, a spokesman for
    the Prescott National Forest Service.
    The fire was first reported at 60 acres Saturday night but was
    downsized and contained at 25 acres Sunday evening.
    "It's under investigation but I'm pretty sure it was human
    caused because we haven't had any lighting around here," Wittman
    said.
    Prescott survived a close call last year when firefighters were
    able to beat down a fast-moving fire that broke out just outside
    town. Still, 1,300 acres of forest and six homes burned.
    Since then, workers have thinned some areas of the forest around
    Prescott. But bark beetles have exacerbated the fire danger all
    over the West. In Arizona alone, the insects have killed about 2.5
    million ponderosa pines and at least 4 million pinyon pines during
    the past year.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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