Firefighters get handle on Arizona blaze

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at
Fri Jul 5 05:13:19 EST 2002

>From The Oregonian, July 3, 2002, p A17

Firefighters get handle on Arizona blaze

By ALISA BLACKWOOD, The Associated Press
	CIBECUE, Ariz. - Crews fighting the largest wildfire in Arizons
history shifted their focus from the evacuated commujnity of Forest
Lakes to the southern end of the blaze, and fire bosses say the end of
the battle may be in sight.
	The 467,580-acre blaze about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix has
consumed at least 423 homes since it started June 18. It was about 80
percent contained Tuesday. The fire is expected to be fully contained
by Sunday, and some crews are already being pulled off the lines to be
sent to other fires.
	About 25,000 evacuees have been allowed to return home, many of them
in Show Low, the economic hub of the area. But 3,500 to 4,000 others
remain evacuated.
	Officials said it will be at least a few more days before the
remaining evacuees are allowed to go back.
	Firefighters watched for spotting near the fire perimeter, at one
point conaining a 10-acre blaze northwest of Cibecue thought to have
been started by a flying ember.
	They also contained a 600-acre fire that escaped fire lines Monday.
The fire begain in an unburned area inside the fire line and spilled
over into an area beyond the barrier.
	With the fire line built around most of the huge blaze, prospects for
containing it were good, said Kris Eriksen, a fire information
officer. The main fire had threatened the community of Forest Lakes
during the weekend, but firefighters were able to keep it out of the
	Crews didn't work the fire near Forest Lakes on Monday night, said
fire information officer Bruce Palmer.
	"When they do not have crews patrolling at night, that is a sign that
things are clearing up," Palmer said.
	The number of people working the blaze decreased from 4,000 people
during the weekend to 3,400 Monday night.
	Elsewhere in the West, a firefighter died Tuesday while working in
rugged terrain to help control a 72,935-acre wildfire north of
Durango, Colo. The cause of his death was not immediately released.
The temperature in the area was in the mid-90s. The fire was 55
percent contained as of Tuesday night.
	In Arizona, a court hearing is set for today for a man charged with
starting one of the two wildfires that merged into the monstrous blaze
in the eastern part of the state.
	Leonard Gregg, 29, a part-time firefighter, told an investigator he
set grass ablaze so he could earn money as part of a fire crew,
according to court documents.

Comment by poster: A 730-square-mile forest fire is a strong
indication that current fire controls are insufficient for fuel loads.
This is very early in the Western fire season. Annual wildfires of 1.5
million acres have occurred in the recent past. Atypical fire seasons
may increase global warming with sudden emissions.

There is a simple and effective control for such fires: reduction of
fuel loads by pelletizing excess fuel production. A reduction of
10-30% on much of this land, especially in small-diameter woody
debris, would create fire restrictions. Such reductions should also
not impact endangered species.

Loss of habitat by wildfire certainly increases endangered species
habitat loss.

The fuels reduced could supply the US with considerable electrical
energy. Pelletized wood is extremely clean burning, and reduces total

Daniel B. Wheeler

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