Local

April 18, 2014

First major Arizona wildfire of 2014 burns in Huachuca Mountains

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Joan Vasey
Scout Editor

This photo of the Brown Fire was taken on Monday evening from Mott Circle on Fort Huachuca. As of Fort Huachuca Scout press time Thursday, firefighters were still working to contain it.

A wildfire, the Brown Fire, was sparked Sunday on Fort Huachuca in a remote location in the Huachuca Mountains and drew national attention and multi-agency firefighting resources to Southeast Arizona where wildfire suppression efforts continued as of Thursday morning.

The wildfire is located in a bowl in the upper elevations of Scheelite Canyon. It is approximately 5 miles southwest of Sierra Vista. It started on the fort at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday and burned onto the Coronado National Forest at approximately 11 a.m. on Monday. The fire is burning almost entirely in the upper elevations on the installation in brush and timber in steep, rugged terrain.

Military officials said they were working closely with forest service officials, and would provide any help needed to put this fire out. The fire interrupted training in the Garden Canyon area on Sunday forcing the evacuation of Soldiers and a cessation of all training in Garden Canyon ranges.

A base camp and several helispots were quickly established on Fort Huachuca, and helicopters drew water from big tubs on the ground to help suppress the blaze. Air tankers dropped retardant on critical points in the mountains to help keep flames from spreading.

A national type 1 incident management team headed by Incident Commander Clay Templin took control of firefighting efforts Tuesday evening, about one hour before the first Brown Fire public information meeting at the Sierra Vista Ranger District.

The Fort Huachuca Fire Department’s Crash 130 stands by with the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s “Ranger 54”in case of an emergency at the Boston Helibase, in support of the Brown Fire in the Huachuca Mountains. During wildfires and other natural disasters, agencies work closely with each other to mitigate effects and get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

Using lessons learned on the 2011 Monument Fire, key officials from various agencies are doing their best to keep the community informed as new developments occur. In addition to news reports and postings on official and unofficial fire reporting websites and via social media, residents are being kept informed of progress face-to-face by incident management personnel and local officials during community meetings.

For safety and to prepare area residents for possible evacuation, pre-evacuation notices were distributed to Ramsey Canyon residents earlier this week. As of Thursday morning, no one has been evacuated and no structures were threatened. The fire was zero percent contained, and the plan of attack was for hot shot crews to continue to build direct fire line on the west and east flanks of the fire.

After the hand line is complete, crews will begin moving into the interior of the burned area to conduct mop up operations.

“Once we have our hand line around it, then we’ll start going down and start mopping up, so that we’re pretty comfortable that nothing is hot really adjacent to it,” Templin said at a public meeting Wednesday.

As of 5:30 a.m. Thursday, the fire had burned approximately 240 acres according to figures at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov./, the official incident information website. Approximately 408 personnel were assigned, including: seven interagency hotshot crews; two type 2 hand crews; one type 2 initial attack crew, eight fire suppression helicopters; one Arizona Department of Public Safety medevac helicopter; nine engines; two water tenders; and miscellaneous overhead. Two air attack planes and four air tankers are on standby, if needed.

Officials say the Brown Fire is human caused and it is being actively investigated. A person of interest has already been questioned.

The U.S. Forest Service announced that a portion of the Sierra Vista Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, is temporarily closed in the vicinity of the Brown Fire. Areas are: Brown Canyon west and northwest of Ramsey Canyon, Forest Service Road 5737, Brown Canyon Road, Forest Service trails 103, 115, 116, 117, 122, 123 and 129. Closures are in effect until May 1, or until rescinded, whichever is earlier.

The information line for the Brown Fire has been staffed. Call 439.2333 or 1.800.288.3861. Also check http://inciweb.nwcg.gov.




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