Official: Arizona crews 'fighting fire with fire'

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Video report by Amanda Goodman

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 30 at 6:41 PM

Map: San Juan Fire

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VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- A wildfire in eastern Arizona's White Mountains grew by about a square mile on Sunday, but the expansion followed successful burnout operations by crews that an official said was "fighting fire with fire."

The San Juan Fire has blackened nearly 9 square miles, up from nearly 8 square miles, but the flames are not spreading, Southwest Area Incident Management Team spokesman Bill Morse said Sunday evening.

All the growth is inside perimeter lines that firefighters have built, he said. The burnout operations have consumed fuels between the perimeter and the main fire on the western edge and may produce more smoke than had been seen.

"This is literally fighting fire with fire," Morse said, calling the western flank the "problem child."

The blaze is now 5 percent contained and the other edges of the fire are "very secure," he said.

Evacuations of about three dozen summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained in place because it was not yet safe to allow people back in their homes, Morse said. But there was no "imminent danger" to those structures, he said.

Authorities said Sunday that no buildings have burned, and no injuries have been reported.

Earlier Sunday, hundreds of firefighters dealt with hot, dry conditions as they built containment lines. But crews got a break from the winds that had whipped the flames in recent days.

"Right now, it's not hurting us. But it's not helping either," Hangan said of the weather.

Arizona and neighboring New Mexico, where fire danger also remains high, have been waiting for monsoon season to develop and bring with it much-needed moisture. Large portions of both states have been dealing with severe to extreme drought.

Fire managers working a 2-week-old blaze on the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona-New Mexico line said Sunday that smoke from pockets of unburned fuel within the interior of that fire will likely continue until the area gets significant rain.

It was the same on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, where crews have been managing a lightning-sparked fire that has blackened more than 16 square miles since being spotted June 17. They are using flames from the Oak Fire to improve forest conditions and acknowledge it will continue to smolder until the rains come.

Another blaze caused by lightning in northern New Mexico was putting up smoke Sunday afternoon that could be seen from as far away as Albuquerque. The 200-acre Diego Fire started earlier this week. Authorities said no structures were threatened, but structure protection crews have been requested.

Crews were being released from the fire on the Navajo Reservation so they could help with other fires in the West, while the team battling the San Juan Fire in Arizona was growing. Nearly 680 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the blaze, along with two dozen engines, five helicopters, bulldozers and water tenders.

About 200 residents packed a community meeting Saturday evening, where incident commander Matt Reidy said forest thinning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests helped firefighters establish anchor points from which to fight the flames.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Crews fighting Arizona fire get break from winds

VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- Hundreds of firefighters dealt with hot, dry conditions Sunday as they tried to build containment lines along portions of a wildfire that has charred nearly 8 square miles in eastern Arizona's White Mountains and led to evacuations.

But crews got a break from the winds that had whipped the flames in recent days. With the blaze holding steady, firefighters were able to make headway with more burnout operations along the fire's western flank, said Margaret Hangan, a spokeswoman with the Southwest Area Incident Management Team.

"Right now, it's not hurting us. But it's not helping either," Hangan said of the weather.

Arizona and neighboring New Mexico, where fire danger also remains high, have been waiting for monsoon season to develop and bring with it much-needed moisture. Large portions of both states have been dealing with severe to extreme drought.

Fire managers working a 2-week-old blaze on the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona-New Mexico line said Sunday that smoke from pockets of unburned fuel within the interior of that fire will likely continue until the area gets significant rain.

It was the same on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, where crews have been managing a lightning-sparked fire that has blackened more than 16 square miles since being spotted June 17. They are using flames from the Oak Fire to improve forest conditions and acknowledge it will continue to smolder until the rains come.

Another blaze caused by lightning in northern New Mexico was putting up smoke Sunday afternoon that could be seen from as far away as Albuquerque. The 200-acre Diego Fire started earlier this week. Authorities said no structures were threatened, but structure protection crews have been requested.

Crews were being released from the fire on the Navajo Reservation so they could help with other fires in the West, while the team battling the San Juan Fire in Arizona was growing. More than 550 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the blaze, along with two dozen engines, five helicopters, bulldozers and water tenders.

About 200 residents packed a community meeting Saturday evening, where incident commander Matt Reidy said forest thinning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests helped firefighters establish anchor points from which to fight the flames.

About three dozen summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained evacuated as a precaution, and authorities said more than 90 structures in the three communities could be threatened. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

Authorities said Sunday that no structures have burned, and no injuries have been reported.

The fire remained zero percent contained, but crews were confident about the east and northeast side, where it had been spreading in previous days. Earlier, flames jumped containment lines on the eastern flank.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Arizona wildfire doesn't grow; evacuations remain

VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- A wildfire that has charred nearly 8 square miles in eastern Arizona's White Mountains held steady Saturday, though the human-caused blaze has not been brought under control at all, officials said.

The fire has not grown and crews have made headway with burnout operations and retardant drops as winds that have whipped the flames in recent days slowed, Bill Morse, spokesman for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, said Saturday evening.

Communities mostly populated with summer homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders because of the fire about 135 miles east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico line, which was reported around noon Thursday. There have been no reported injuries, and no new evacuations or notices to be ready to flee have been issued.

A total of 37 summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained evacuated as a precaution, and authorities said more than 90 structures in three communities could be threatened. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

Morse revised estimates of the number of people who evacuated, saying 25 left the area southeast of Vernon.

Residents packed a community meeting Saturday evening, where incident commander Matt Reidy said forest-thinning work that has been done in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests helped firefighters.

But an area of mixed conifer that wasn't thinned has burned through, he said.

There are heavy fuel sources on the west side of the fire, which crews are targeting, Morse said. Although there is much fuel and rough terrain, winds are pushing away from the western flank.

"Nature has given us a little break," Morse said, adding winds are likely to be calm overnight and Sunday.

That reprieve comes ahead of problematic dry lightning storms that Morse expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fire remained zero percent contained, but crews are confident about the east and south flanks and plan to attack the blaze directly on the northeast side, where it had been spreading in previous days. Earlier, flames jumped containment lines on the eastern flank.

Nine Hotshot crews, 12 engines, five heavy air tankers and a helicopter were fighting the fire on part of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and in the national forest.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SAN JUAN FIRE

  • Reported Date: June 26, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
  • Location: 18 miles southeast of Show Low, Az.
  • Acres: 5,000
  • Cause: Human, under investigation
  • Containment: 0 percent
  • Terrain: Variable
  • Fuels: Mixed conifer and Ponderosa pine
  • Resources: 5 helicopters, 7 hotshot crews, 6 hand Total Personnel: 502 crews, 24 engines, 3 dozers, 4 water tenders

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- Fire crews are hoping that lighter winds on Saturday will spur progress against a wildfire that has charred more than 8 square miles in eastern Arizona's White Mountains and prompted crews to set up a shelter for evacuees.

The Red Cross announced Saturday that it has opened a temporary shelter after windy conditions pushed the San Juan fire past key containment lines

"The winds picked up and we did have a lot of movement on the fire," said Pamela Baltimore, a spokeswoman for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. "The fire crossed containment lines to the east and west."

The north end of the fire was holding and planes were dropping slurry on active sections of the blaze in an attempt to re-establish the fire lines on the east and west flanks, officials said. The fire remains zero percent contained, officials said.

Communities mostly populated with summer homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders because of the fire that was reported around noon Thursday. Its cause remains under investigation.

A total of 37 summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained evacuated as a precaution, and authorities said up to 90 structures in three communities could be threatened by the fire. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

More than 200 residents and tourists left the areas by the time evacuations were ordered Thursday night, Apache County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Richard Guinn said.

Pre-evacuation notices also have been issued for the area of Greens Peak Hideaway, officials said.

A public meeting has been scheduled in Vernon later Saturday, officials said.

There have been no reported injuries. The fire is about 135 miles east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico line.

A Type II incident management team, the second-highest level available, took charge of the fire Friday because of the continuous sources of fuel ahead of the blaze.

The fire southeast of Vernon was moving northeast between parcels of land that burned during wildfires in 2002 and 2011, authorities said.

Should it continue on that path, it would hit land with dry underbrush where it could make a run up trees and produce spot fires as winds gust around 20 mph over the weekend.

"We'll have to be very mindful of that," said Marta Call, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. "It's moving into untreated areas where there's a lot of dry underbrush, steep terrain, winds are gusting and temperatures rising."

Nine Hotshot crews, 12 engines, five heavy air tankers and a helicopter were fighting the fire on part of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and in the national forest.

SAN JUAN FIRE PUBLIC MEETING

A public meeting has been scheduled in Vernon at Fire Station 1 at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 28. Members of the incident management team as well as the Fort Apache Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests will be present to discuss the current status of the fire and planned containment efforts.

SAN JUAN FIRE

  • Reported Date: June 26, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
  • Location: 18 miles southeast of Show Low, Az.
  • Acres: 5,000
  • Cause: Human, under investigation
  • Containment: 0 percent
  • Terrain: Variable
  • Fuels: Mixed conifer and Ponderosa pine
  • Resources: 5 helicopters, 7 hotshot crews, 6 hand Total Personnel: 502 crews, 24 engines, 3 dozers, 4 water tenders

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Wind sends Arizona wildfire past containment lines

VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- Fire crews are hoping that lighter winds on Saturday will spur progress against a wildfire that has charred more than 8 square miles in eastern Arizona's White Mountains and prompted some evacuations.

On Friday, windy conditions pushed the so-called San Juan fire past key containment lines.

"The winds picked up and we did have a lot of movement on the fire," said Pamela Baltimore, a spokeswoman for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. "The fire crossed containment lines to the east and west."

The north end of the fire was holding and planes were dropping slurry on active sections of the blaze in an attempt to re-establish the fire lines on the east and west flanks, officials said.

Communities mostly populated with summer homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders because of the fire that first was reported around noon Thursday. Its cause remains under investigation.

A total of 37 summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained evacuated as a precaution and authorities said up to 90 structures in three communities could be threatened by the fire. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

More than 200 residents and tourists left the areas by the time evacuations were ordered Thursday night, Apache County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Richard Guinn said.

There have been no reported injuries. The fire is about 135 miles east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico line.

In addition, Kevin Bailey, a spokesman for the incident fire command, told The Arizona Republic that pre-evacuation notices were issued for two other areas - Green's Peak Hideaway and Hidden Meadows.

A Type II incident management team, the second-highest level available, took charge of the fire Friday because of the continuous sources of fuel ahead of the blaze.

However, authorities said winds in the area were expected to subside Friday night and be light Saturday, which would aid in the fire fight.

The fire southeast of Vernon was moving northeast between parcels of land that burned during wildfires in 2002 and 2011, authorities said.

Should it continue on that path, it would hit land with dry underbrush where it could make a run up trees and produce spot fires as winds gust around 20 mph over the weekend.

"We'll have to be very mindful of that," said Marta Call, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. "It's moving into untreated areas where there's a lot of dry underbrush, steep terrain, winds are gusting and temperatures rising."

Nine Hotshot crews, 12 engines, five heavy air tankers and a helicopter were fighting the fire on part of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and in the national forest.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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