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Thread: Arizona Wildfire Forces Hundreds to Flee

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    Arizona Wildfire Forces Hundreds to Flee

    Updated: 07-15-2003 12:16:20 PM

    Arizona Wildfire Forces Hundreds to Flee

    ............
    SARA THORSON
    Associated Press

    WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) -- Hundreds of people fled their homes around this eastern Arizona community as a wildfire nearly quadrupled in size in the mountains near the area devastated by last year's record blaze.

    The 5,800-acre fire on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation hadn't destroyed any homes or other buildings by Tuesday morning, said Cam Hunter, spokeswoman for the state's Division of Emergency Management.

    However, it had prompted authorities to order evacuations of part of Whiteriver and several other communities.

    At least 700 homes and as many as 5,000 people were affected by the order. The fire also burned within four miles of a point that would trigger evacuations in Pinetop-Lakeside and nearby mountain communities about 20 miles to the north where the population swells to 30,000 in the summer.

    The blaze broke out just east of the area blackened by Arizona's worst fire on record, last year's blaze that forced thousands to evacuate the small city of Show Low, burned 469,000 acres and destroyed 491 homes. Whiteriver is about 30 miles south of Show Low.

    Relatively high humidity and low wind was expected for Tuesday, but firefighters were concerned about possible lightning from afternoon thunderstorms, said Art Morrison, a spokesman for the firefighting crew.

    The White Mountain Apache Tribe had already done logging, forest thinning and prescribed burns north of the area that was burning.

    ``That will really slow down the rate'' of fire spread, Morrison said.

    The vast firebreak created by the 2002 fire didn't help crews trying to block the current blaze, which was burning between that area and Pinetop-Lakeside.

    Last year's fire charred sacred Indian sites and accelerated the decline of the White Mountain Apache Tribe's timber industry, which provides 60 percent of the tribe's income but already had faced a dwindling supply of harvestable trees. The tribe also receives income from a casino.

    ``It's just kind of hard to deal with it because we had one last year and we got over it and now it's here again,'' said Brenda Walker of Whiteriver, who moved to one of six shelters set up for evacuees.

    Elsewhere, a fire that started Monday near Huntsville, Utah, was believed to have destroyed six or seven summer residences _ cabins or trailers _ east of town. That estimate was based on aerial reconnaissance late Monday.

    The blaze had spread to 350 to 500 acres by early Tuesday, said Kathy Jo Pollock, Wasatch-Cache National Forest spokeswoman. It was about 20 percent contained, she said.

    A voluntary evacuation was suggested for three developments in the area that contain several hundred summer and year-round homes.

    A brush fire at Reno, Nev., burned nearly 1,200 acres near residential neighborhoods in the foothills Monday night, but dying wind helped reduce the biggest threat to 100 homes in the area, said Christie Kalkowski, a spokeswoman for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. It was 80 percent contained Tuesday after wind died down. The cause remained under investigation.

    Wildfires also were active in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, the National Interagency Fire Center said

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...nId=4&id=14998

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    Fire at 6,200 acres; evacuees endure a hot night

    Fire at 6,200 acres; evacuees endure a hot night

    Mark Shaffer and Paul Matthews
    The Arizona Republic
    Jul. 15, 2003 12:15 PM


    WHITERIVER - Reinforced fire crews on Tuesday took to digging lines along the western and eastern flanks of the "Kinishba" fire, casting a weary eye on plume clouds that threaten to collapse on the blaze and spread flames outward like a fiery torch.

    Fire management officials say they feel good about their progress, encouraged by reinforcements to crews that now number more than 500 firefighters. Also helping: the fire is finding little fuel to the north, where it's burning into an area that already had been charred by another fire four years ago and subsequently thinned out by the White Mountain Apache tribe.

    Gov. Janet Napolitano on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for the area, which encompasses portions of Navajo and Gila counties. She also freed up $200,000 for firefighting costs, and made available members of the National Guard to help with evacuation and law-enforcement efforts.

    The lightning caused blaze remained active overnight, and has consumed some 6,200 acres as of early Tuesday.


    Jeff Whitney, deputy incident commander of the fire, said he is concerned about cumulus clouds -- thick formations with dome-like tops -- that were rising in a giant plume above the fire. A similar plume on Monday collapsed down on the flames and fanned flying embers outward to help the blaze grow.

    In particular, Whitney and others fear spot fires crossing Arizona 73 and burning eastward, where there are more trees and other vegetation to feed the fire -- and give it momentum toward Pinetop-Lakeside, Hon Dah and McNary.

    "This is the kind of behavior we saw last year on the 'Rodeo-Chedisky' fire," Whitney said, referring to the inferno that burned 455,000 acres and devoured more than 490 structures. "We're in a very critical situation."

    The "Kinishba" fire, so named because it started near the Kinishba Ruins on the Apache reservation, has now moved to within a quarter-mile of the Indian Service hospital in nearby Whiteriver and within 4 miles of Little Round Top, the triggerpoint for the evacuation of Pinetop-Lakeside and surrounding communities.

    Fire crews used bulldozers and shovels and axes to dig lines along roads and ditches parallel to the fire. They're hopeful that weather conditions will allow them to set backburns, as early as Tuesday night, to slow the flames.

    On Monday, more than 5,000 White Mountain Apache Tribe residents from Whiteriver, Fort Apache and surrounding communities fled when the fire began to belch thick, black smoke and roar through scrub and stands of pi

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    Navajo Hot Shot Crew

    David Yazzie and his Navajo 'hot shot' crew

    Photo Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic
    For more photos click on link below
    http://www.azcentral.com/php-bin/sli...1&numslides=17

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    Firefighters battle blazes in 10 western states

    July 18, 2003

    Wildfires destroy homes

    Firefighters battle blazes in 10 western states

    Arthur H. Rotstein
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


    SUMMERHAVEN, Ariz.- Catherine Westervelt wouldn't turn her eyes away from the pile of rubble that had been a family treasure.

    Staring at ashy remnants and bits of misshapen metal, she could muster only a halting whisper as she tried to talk about the vacation cabin, built by her father more than 30 years ago.

    "It's like losing a family," Westervelt said, beginning to cry. "It was my dad's. It was his and we lost him three years ago. It's like losing him all over again because this was the last thing of his we had."

    Westervelt was among dozens of property owners who returned to Summerhaven yesterday, a month after a wildfire chased them away before ravaging the mountaintop vacation hamlet north of Tucson. The 84,750-acre blaze was contained Tuesday.

    The fire broke out June 17 on Mount Lemmon, forcing property owners to flee Summerhaven and surrounding subdivisions. It tore through the community two days later, as high winds drove flames through pine forest ravaged by drought and tree-killing beetles.

    A total of 322 homes and cabins, seven businesses and four other buildings were lost during the initial surge and another run earlier this month. The fire was caused by people, and remains under investigation.

    Summerhaven has about 100 year-round residents, but its population swells in the summer and on weekends as people head to cabins, second homes and campgrounds.

    As Summerhaven residents returned, firefighters across the West continued their battles in what has been a mild fire season overall. The National Interagency Fire Center reported yesterday that 1.12 million acres of forest have burned so far this season, compared to a 10-year, year-to-date average of 1.89 million acres.

    In Wyoming, 15 Boy Scouts and their leaders were plucked by helicopter from the Shoshone National Forest back country, where they had been cut off when authorities closed a trail because of a rapidly expanding wildfire. The 1,000-acre fire was burning away from the Scouts, who had been stranded but not in danger, fire managers said.

    In California, about 760 firefighters worked to contain a wildfire that had burned 7,000 acres of steep, hilly brush near the Riverside-San Diego county line. About 600 people were evacuated from a Boy Scout summer camp as a precaution, and an undetermined number of residents were forced from their homes.

    Firefighters also continued to battle spot fires in the north-central Washington town of Okanogan, where a wind-whipped fire destroyed six houses and heavily damaged two others Wednesday. Dozens of other houses were threatened before firefighters, aided by aircraft dropping retardant, contained the 350-acre fire, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.

    Fires in Colorado closed Mesa Verde National Park, although officials said its ancient ruins did not appear to be threatened.

    Major wildfires also were reported in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

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