Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Frye Mesa Fire, Day One

At first I thought it was a rain cloud on the mountain.

Then my better half spoke up and asked if I had seen the smoke. Smoke? It wasn't a weird rain cloud after all. Yellowish smoke was billowing off of Frye Mesa thousands of feet into the sky and obscuring the sun overhead. The temperature started to drop due to the shade. Frye Mesa is the site of a small dam and water collection area for the city of Safford, Arizona water utility. The city gets water from several sources but Frye Mesa has been contributing fresh mountain water for decades.

After nightfall the extent of this brand new fire, being driven by gusty winds, is quite terrifying. I estimate it has climbed up Frye Canyon or Ash Creek Canyon several miles. The sickly orange glow outlines it's destructive path.

Frye Canyon ends near the summit of Mt. Graham (above 10,700 feet elevation) at the multi-million dollar, world famous telescopes. Recently the newspaper USA Today characterized the Large Binocular Telescope there as superior to the Hubble; therefore, the best in the world today. Ash Creek Canyon ends at 9500 feet elevation at the Columbine Work Center of the US Forest Service. Also located there are dozens of summer cabins, a Forest Service visitors center, a summer camp, and a spruce-shaded campground I enjoy a lot. Obviously there is much at stake with this fire.

I have no idea yet on the source of the ignition. A rumor says it was a prescribed burn but a check of authorized burns does not verify this. Frye Mesa is home of an invasive weed that I know the forest service has been trying hard to eradicate, but I hardly think they would have been out there setting fires when there was a Red Flag Warning today with local wind gust of up to 55 miles per hour forecast.

I will up-date here as more information becomes available. In the meantime I have a front row seat to the terrorism of fire on a dry southeastern Arizona mountain forest.


Carole Lanno said...

Is Mother Nature angry at the whole world ?
I will be checking in regularly to see how things are going. Very interesting to read a first person account of what is happening.

Take care of yourself

enestvmel said...

My husband worked on a fire near the telescope a few years ago. I remembered they spared no expense then to save it then. I'm sure if it's heading that way, it will be the same way this time. Do you know where the fire is this time compared to then?

I was looking at the Forest Services sites today and saw that they have 8 type 1 hotshot crews (20+ guys each) that are in the SW area dispatched to this fire already. That doesn't include all the Type 2 crews. They haven't updated the site for their fires in the SW area yet though, so I haven't got info on the fire yet. Yesterday afternoon it was 250+ (usually estimated) acres when it was reported. It seems like they've jumped on this right away with a lot of man power. You guys should be ok! Take care though!