Thursday, June 16, 2011

How NOT to fight a fire

Since my last post, a lot has happened. By Monday morning, someone at NIFC declared victory and recalled the slurry bombing planes to put on another fire. Tuesday, the winds picked up and the fire exploded past the containment. There wasn't enough resource to do anything. 24 homes were lost that evening. Sixteen more since, and another 10 non-residential including a church. Fortunately, it seems that no one was killed, but several people left their homes and saw them burst into flames.

The fire is now approx 9000 acres and uncontained in rugged terrain. We have a slurry bomber back today, but it can't fly at night due to the rugged terrain. The fire is large enough that night vision technology won't work either as it 'blinds' the pilots.

The humidity has been in the single digits most of the week and the temps have reached the high 90's. We've had red flag wind warnings daily. Tomorrow will be gusts to 40, sustained winds at 10 to 15. The next defensible fire line in the rugged mountains is about 5 miles north. Not sure where there is one on the flat lands -- Oh, forgot to mention that the fire jumped the highway -- which constituted most of the early 'containment.' Residents on that side had no pre-evacuation order because the jump was unexpected and the fire was essentially moving at the speed of the wind.

My sister, her husband and their pets are now living with me. As of 6 pm last night, they still have a home. Not sure if they will by 6 pm tonight. I helped another friend move family heirlooms last night. If they are fortunate, they won't need to evacuate until tomorrow. Some of the people who left in a hurry on Tuesday to stay with friends are again in the new 'pre-evacuation' areas. Makes me a little crazy that this could all have been avoided if they left us ONE slurry bomber on Monday. These planes and their skilled crews are what has kept the property loss so low at the Wallow fire, now the largest in Arizona history. To date, we have lost almost five times as many homes and structures than that 400,000+ acre fire. Nice work. Totally preventable if the Feds were doing their jobs, starting with controlling the border.

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