Russ’s Fire Update

I just wanted to give people a brief update. I drove up from Las Cruces on Friday and for the first time in about a month was able to drive up through Silver City and Luna. The area south of Luna is untouched. Most of the fire seems to have gone to the north of the town. The fire jumped US 180 between Luna and the AZ border. As I drove through that section there were still plenty of smoking stumps.

Alpine AZ was in pretty good shape. The hills surrounding the town were burned rather badly, but the town itself is fine. There was still smoke rising from a number of hotspots both around Alpine and Nutrioso this weekend.

Most of the action on the fire is now on the southern end of the Blue. They lifted the evacuation order for residents of the Blue. I talked with Don Hoffman yesterday and he and Janie are now back at their home. The house, garden etc. are all fine. There is still some fire activity within 3 miles of their home but so far nothing too threatening. I will be meeting up with Don later today expect he will have many great stories.

The fire is now at almost 540,000 acres and is about 80% contained. The Forest is still closed so I can’t give you much firsthand accounts of what things look like on the ground. I did find an interesting aerial picture of the top of Escudilla.

AZ_11-06-13_0720

As you can see the top of the mountain is heavily burned. This confirms what we have been seeing from the base. The bench surrounding the peak got hit much less seriously. For a full set of pictures from the fire go to:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/apachesitgreavesnf/

The first couple of screens are mostly of Secretary of Agriculture Salazar and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell, but on the second page you start to get some good pictures of the fire and firefighters.

Things here are in the mop-up stage. We have a steady stream of Forest Service people coming in our property evaluating soil conditions, patching up dozer lines, replanting dozer lines with rye grass, etc. We had a Forest Service hydrologist stop by yesterday and talking with him was sobering. The worst for us may yet come.

With the top of Escudilla so badly burned they are expecting record runoffs even with a relatively modest monsoon season. Along with the runoff will come all the debris that will clog stream channels. As the channels fill up, the extra water that will runoff from the burned areas will seek new channels. He estimated that our property was at risk of flooding from Hulsey Creek despite the creek bed being 15 ft. below our property level. Not what we wanted to hear when we have a 45’x 30’, 8’ deep hole in the middle of our property. As if on cue, this afternoon we saw the first monsoon thunderheads forming over Escudilla. No rain yet and we hope we have time to build some berms to divert water away from newly dug basement before they come. Tomorrow morning there will be a sand bag filling “party” at the new site of the Nutrioso firehouse so the community can start to prepare for the inevitable flooding.

We have started our own restoration work. Today we spent a couple of hours felling burned trees from our hillside. The idea is to drop them at angles so that when the rain comes the water flowing down the hillside will hit one, then another and have a maximum amount of time to absorb into the ground instead of flowing directly down the hill. Nature is also at work. The Ponderosa Pines that were only partially burned have been dropping their seed pods in hopes of reproducing themselves in the newly cleared ground.

The political battles over the fire continue. Below is a link to an article by George Wuerthner on what he sees are the causes of the fire. The replies show some of the more thoughtful exchanges on the topic. Much of the dispute is a lot less civil.

http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/wallow_fire_reporting_misleading/C41/L41/

We are trying to get back on track with our building. We have a few minor alterations to the foundation forms to make this week. Hopefully we will do our first concrete pour just after the 4th of July holiday.

I will give you another update in a few days.

Russ

Help fill sandbags for Nutrioso

REMEMBER THE SCHULZ FIRE FLOODING IN FLAGSTAFF LAST YEAR!
THEY USED 600,000 SANDBAGS TO PROTECT THERE HOMES AND PROPERTIES.

Days count as the monsoon approach and the thousands of acres of hard burn slopes all around the Nutrioso watershed are set to moves soil and debris into the water channels that traverse our community of Nutrioso flooding homes, washing out roads and taking down utilities. Apache County is being proactive and has delivered 75 cubic yards of sand and 5000 thousand bags to the Nutrioso Fire Station site. It is time for the community to step-up and begin preparation for the inevitable flooding to come. We will be filling sand bags on site Monday June 27th, any and all residents that are able to help with this effort to help ourselves are ask to join in between 8:00 AM until we run out of sand or bags whichever comes first.

Please bring your friends, neighbors and a shovels.

Bill Jackson
Chief Nutrioso FD
nvfdfirechief@fireman.net

Lack of Logging Isn’t To Blame in Massive Forest Fires

Here is a good op ed printed in the Albuquerque Journal that explains the issue with fires. It is on a blog (https://ncfp.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/wild-earth-guardians-on-zone-of-agreement/) and you can get to it in the Albuquerque Journal by using a trial subscription:

http://www.abqjournal.com/cgi-bin/decision.pl?attempted=www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/06/23/opinion/lack-of-logging-isnt-to-blame-in-massive-forest-fires.html

Lack of Logging Isn’t To Blame in Massive Forest Fires

By Bryan Bird / Wild Places Program Director, WildEarth Guardians on Fri, Jun 24, 2011
As the country floods and burns, climate change is upon us. Smoke from the Wallow Fire in Arizona still lingers, and the predictable but misplaced finger-pointing has begun.

As the grandstanding goes on, however, innovative, collaborative efforts are quietly reshaping the federal forest policies that got us here in the first place and charting a sustainable future for the National Forest System.

Contrary to public perception, there have been few lawsuits challenging sensible fuel reduction on the national forests in the last decade. The GAO concluded in 2010 that about 2 percent of all hazardous fuel reduction decisions by the Forest Service nationwide were litigated. The handful challenged were because of unwarranted impacts to water, wildlife and other valuable resources the national forests generate for Americans.

Ignored in the national discourse: the U.S. Forest Service, loggers, the wood utilization industry and conservationists have been spending valuable time and resources in the woods finding a zone of agreement.

We need to go back more than a couple of decades to understand how the current wildfire situation arose.

During the last hundred years or so the lower elevation, dry pine forests of the west were severely logged over, leaving a nearly uniform mass of small trees. Domestic livestock grazing, which suppresses the grasses that normally carry low intensity fire fostered the proliferation of pine seedlings and aggravated conditions. On top of it all, humans became extremely effective at suppressing most wildfires, leaving the overgrowth unchecked.

Cutting itself out of business, the lumber industry is mostly gone and the market for lumber is at record low. Supposing we threw aside all environmental concerns and opened our public forestlands to logging on a historic scale, as some have suggested, there would be no use for the logs. In a free market system there has to be demand or no amount of deregulation is going to make a difference.

Throw in climate change and drought and you have all the ingredients for the Wallow Fire and others burning in the Southwest. The science is clear; big fire years track drought cycles, and climate change is exacerbating those conditions.

The fires are predictable, but can we do anything to mitigate their effect? Yes, we can.

Starting in 2001 with Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s Collaborative Forest Restoration Program in New Mexico, now expanded nationally, former adversaries began developing forest restoration projects that are environmentally sound and effective. In New Mexico alone, more than 30,000 acres have been treated and about 600 jobs created through the program.

More important, perhaps, are the program’s less quantifiable results, as an atmosphere of litigation and acrimony surrounding resources has given way to a spirit of cooperation.

Logging in the historic sense will leave the forests more vulnerable, not less. On federal, public forests, cost-effective fuel reduction is accomplished with other tools including: wildland fire use, prescribed fire, thinning and removal of livestock grazing pressure.

The Forest Service treated hazardous fuels on one and a half million acres with thinning or burning in 2010; many of these acres are strategically located around communities and proved critical in defending Arizona towns in the latest blaze.

Senators John Kyle of Arizona and Ron Wyden of Oregon told a senate committee recently that the Forest Service needs to pick up the pace of hazardous fuel treatments on the national forests. While that is true and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program requires full funding, we live in time of shrinking budgets and the acute effects of climate change. Strategic use of resources will be critical.

In addition to forest fuel treatments, it is time to start taking personal responsibility, demanding appropriate county zoning and placing the enormous costs of fire fighting on the parties that encourage development in fire-prone forests.

That is the real work of preparing for wildfire in a climate-changed world.

Lessons From the Wallow Fire: The Western Inferno

George Wuerthner puts the Wallow fire in perspective….

The Wallow Fire is now the largest in recent Arizona history, encompassing more than 500,000 acres. The media discussion of the fire often leads to misinformation and misunderstanding of wildfires, and feeds the political agenda of politicians, and industries from developers to the timber industry.

One of the problems of media coverage is that most reporters have little or no training in ecology, much less in-depth understanding of wildfire ecology. Context for large blazes like the Wallow Fire are often missing from reportage. The emphasis on fuels makes for easy reportage, but misses some important nuances that lead to simplistic solutions—the common refrain that if we only logged more of the forest such fires would be prevented.

23 JUN 11 Morning update Wallow Fire

6/23/11 9:25 AM

Size: 532,086
Containment: 61%

Pre-Evacuation Alert:
A pre-evacuation alert continues in Apache County for Greens Peak, Hidden Meadows Lodge and surrounding areas.
Residents in these communities are asked to remain prepared for evacuation.

Road Closures according to Arizona Department of Transportation: http://www.azdot.gov
US 191 is closed between Alpine and north of Clifton (milepost 176-253).
SR 261 (mileposts 395-413) and SR 273 (mileposts 383-394), main roads to Big Lake & Crescent Lake are closed.

The National Weather Service on potential flooding: The Wallow Fire burned vast portions of the White Mountains including areas of steep terrain which will make numerous locations vulnerable to flash floods and debris flows even in moderate intensity (10 – 15 minutes) rains. Some area streams and rivers are likely to see flows beyond anything seen in decades if typical or above average rains occur. This summer, all residents near streams, rivers, or steep burned hillsides should be alert to flooding and debris flows. Residents should be aware that area roadways may become impassible due to mud, rock and debris slides or due to streams and washes overwhelming existing culverts and bridges.

Flood Danger after Fire

HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOK
AZZ015-017-242300-

HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FLAGSTAFF AZ
945 PM MST THU JUN 16 2011

…WILDFIRE BURN AREAS INCREASE RISK OF FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS
FLOWS…

IN THE AFTERMATH OF WILDFIRES ACROSS NORTHERN ARIZONA…INCLUDING
THE WALLOW FIRE…LOCUST FIRE…AND 2010 SCHULTZ FIRE…LOCATIONS
DOWNHILL AND DOWNSTREAM FROM BURNED AREAS ARE NOW MORE SUSCEPTIBLE
TO FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS. A SHORT PERIOD OF MODERATE
RAINFALL ON A BURNED WATERSHED CAN LEAD TO FLASH FLOODS OR DEBRIS
FLOWS. RAINFALL THAT IS NORMALLY ABSORBED CAN RUN OFF EXTREMELY
QUICKLY AFTER SOILS AND VEGETATION HAVE BEEN CHARRED. SEVERELY
BURNED SOILS CAN BE AS WATER REPELLANT AS PAVEMENT.
CONSEQUENTLY…RUNOFF WILL BE GREATER AND MORE RAPID THAN PRIOR TO
THE FIRE. FLOOD WATERS CAN PICK UP LARGE AMOUNTS OF
ASH…SAND…SILT…ROCKS…AND REMNANTS OF VEGETATION. THE FORCE OF
RUSHING WATER AND DEBRIS CAN DAMAGE OR DESTROY
CULVERTS…BRIDGES…ROADWAYS…AND BUILDINGS…POTENTIALLY CAUSING
INJURY OR DEATH.

EACH WILDFIRE BURN AREA POSES ITS OWN UNIQUE RISK OF FLASH FLOODING
DUE TO MANY FACTORS INCLUDING PROXIMITY TO POPULATION CENTERS…BURN
SEVERITY…STEEPNESS OF TERRAIN…AND SIZE OF BURNED DRAINAGE
BASINS. INFORMATION PERTINENT TO INDIVIDUAL BURN AREAS IS INCLUDED
BELOW.

WALLOW FIRE BURN AREA…AFFECTING THE COMMUNITIES OF
ALPINE…EAGAR…GREER…AND NUTRIOSO AS WELL AS PORTIONS OF
HIGHWAYS 180…191…260…261…273…AND 373 WITHIN THE BURNED
AREA OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS. THE LARGEST WILDFIRE IN STATE HISTORY
HAS BURNED VAST PORTIONS OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS. PORTIONS OF THE
AREA WERE SEVERELY BURNED…INCLUDING AREAS OF STEEP TERRAIN.
NUMEROUS LOCATIONS WILL BE VULNERABLE TO FLASH FLOODS AND DEBRIS
FLOWS EVEN IN MODERATE INTENSITY RAINS LASTING AS LITTLE AS 10 TO 15
MINUTES. SOME AREA STREAMS AND RIVERS ARE LIKELY TO SEE FLOWS BEYOND
ANYTHING SEEN IN DECADES IF TYPICAL OR ABOVE AVERAGE RAINS OCCUR
THIS SUMMER. RESIDENTS NEAR STREAMS…RIVERS…OR STEEP BURNED
HILLSIDES SHOULD BE ALERT TO FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS. ALL
RESIDENTS SHOULD BE AWARE THAT AREA ROADWAYS MAY BECOME IMPASSIBLE
DUE TO MUD…ROCK…AND DEBRIS SLIDES OR DUE TO STREAMS AND WASHES
OVERWHELMING EXISTING CULVERTS AND BRIDGES. AVOID AREAS OF STEEP
BURNED TERRAIN OR STREAM CHANNELS WHEN RAIN FALLS IN THE AREA.
STUDIES OF THE BURN AREA WILL BE CONDUCTED WHEN POSSIBLE…AND
ADDITIONAL UPDATES ON FLOOD POTENTIAL WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE IN THE
COMING WEEKS.

LOCUST FIRE BURN AREA…AFFECTING THE COMMUNITY OF WHITERIVER. 364
ACRES WERE BURNED ON A STEEP HILLSIDE IMMEDIATELY WEST OF THE
NORTHSIDE…WHISKEY FLATS…AND YUCCA FLATS NEIGHBORHOODS OF
WHITERIVER. RESIDENCES ARE LOCATED WITHIN A FEW HUNDRED FEET OF THE
BURN AREA. DUE TO THE VERY CLOSE PROXIMITY OF RESIDENCES TO THE
BURN AREA…FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS WILL AFFECT RESIDENCES
VERY QUICKLY AFTER THE ONSET OF MODERATE OR HEAVY RAIN. ONCE RAIN
BEGINS…AS LITTLE AS 5 TO 10 MINUTES OF HEAVY RAIN MAY PRODUCE
FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS. VULNERABLE LOCATIONS ARE FROM
AROUND LOCUST STREET TO KNOTS LANDING ROAD BETWEEN THE WHITE RIVER
AND THE BURN AREA. DO NOT WAIT FOR A FLASH FLOOD WARNING TO TAKE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY IN THE EVENT OF HEAVY RAIN.
THUNDERSTORMS THAT DEVELOP OVER THE BURN AREA CAN PRODUCE FLASH
FLOODING NEARLY AS FAST AS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RADAR CAN DETECT
THE RAINFALL. FLASH FLOODING MAY BEGIN BEFORE A WARNING CAN BE
ISSUED. IF YOU ARE IN AREAS VULNERABLE TO FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS
FROM THIS BURN AREA…PLAN IN ADVANCE. THERE WILL BE VERY LITTLE
TIME TO SPARE WHEN FLOODING BEGINS.

SCHULTZ FIRE BURN AREA…AFFECTING THE COMMUNITIES OF HUTCHINSON
ACRES…TIMBERLINE…WUPATKI TRAILS…FERNWOOD…AND POTENTIALLY THE
LOW-LYING AREAS IN DONEY PARK EAST OF HIGHWAY 89. ALTHOUGH A YEAR
HAS PASSED SINCE THE FIRE…THE BURN AREA WILL STILL PRODUCE
FLOODING MUCH MORE EASILY THAN BEFORE THE FIRE. EROSION FROM
FLOODING LAST YEAR HAS PRODUCED CHANNELS WHICH CAN CARRY WATER
DOWNHILL EVEN FASTER. IN ADDITION…SOME OF THE SOILS DOWNHILL FROM
THE BURN AREA HAVE BEEN COVERED OVER BY FINE AND RELATIVELY
IMPERMEABLE SEDIMENT FROM LAST YEAR`S FLOODING…AND WILL NOT DRAIN
AS FAST AS BEFORE THE FIRE. ALTHOUGH LESS DEBRIS MAY BE CARRIED BY
FLOOD WATERS THIS YEAR…EXPECT FLOODING TO OCCUR WEST OF HIGHWAY 89
AGAIN THIS SUMMER WHEN MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN OCCURS FOR 15 TO 30
MINUTES OR MORE OVER PORTIONS OF THE BURN AREA. IN THE EVENT OF
WIDESPREAD AND/OR VERY HEAVY RAINFALL…ENOUGH WATER MAY BE CARRIED
DOWNHILL THAT LOW-LYING PORTIONS OF DONEY PARK EAST OF HIGHWAY 89
MAY BE FLOODED.

RESIDENTS IN FLOOD PRONE AREAS SHOULD HAVE AN EMERGENCY KIT AND A
PLAN TO EVACUATE. IF ROADS ARE BLOCKED OR IT IS UNSAFE TO EVACUATE
DUE TO FLASH FLOODING…DEBRIS FLOWS…HEAVY RAIN…OR POOR
VISIBILITY IT IS BEST TO SHELTER IN PLACE IN A STURDY STRUCTURE.
CALL 911 IF YOU ARE CAUGHT IN A FLASH FLOOD OR DEBRIS FLOW. IF YOU
ARE IN A VEHICLE…DO NOT DRIVE INTO FLOOD WATERS OR DEBRIS FLOWS.

WHEN THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES A FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR
YOUR AREA…IT MEANS THAT THERE IS ENHANCED LIKELIHOOD OF FLASH
FLOODING. YOU SHOULD BE EVEN MORE ALERT TO THE POSSIBILITY OF FLASH
FLOODING. KEEP IN MIND THAT SUMMER WEATHER IN NORTHERN ARIZONA
BRINGS A POSSIBILITY FOR FLASH FLOODING ALMOST EVERY DAY IN
THUNDERSTORMS THAT FORM OVER FLOOD PRONE AREAS AND BURNED AREAS.

WHEN THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES A FLASH FLOOD WARNING…IT
MEANS THAT FLASH FLOODING IS ALREADY OCCURRING OR IS LIKELY TO OCCUR
VERY SOON. DO NOT DELAY TAKING PROTECTIVE MEASURES EVEN IF RAINFALL
IS LIGHT AT YOUR LOCATION.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE CONTENT OF THIS
PRODUCT…PLEASE CONTACT

GEORGE HOWARD
WARNING COORDINATION METEOROLOGIST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE – FLAGSTAFF
928-556-9161 X223
GEORGE.HOWARD@NOAA.GOV

Photos of our property after the fire

Our neighbor to the south says that firefighters are parked at his place right now and are on the ridge fighting flame.
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Changes on June 1st from Constructions, to Dogs tugging, to Sunset

June 1st–the day before evacuation—begins as a normal construction day and ends in the pink of the sunset–an omen of what was to come.
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June 2—Smoke Intensifies

This morning we cannot see the mountains across the Nutri valley.  The Hulsey Bench dims under the layers of smoke.
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In the Footsteps of Leopold at the Foot of Escudilla