Last June, we ran a story about the Wallow and Rodeo-Chediski fires. Now, as more fires burn across our state, the issues of forest management, Leave No Trace ethics and firefighting are raised anew. The entire text of the story is below.
Tag Archives: Rodeo-Chediski
Looks like timber from the devastating Wallow Fire will soon be sold off… or rather sold to the highest bidder. According to a story that appeared in the Eastern Arizona Courier, both small and high-value timber will soon be for sale through several small timber sales involving bidding.
The removal of the timber is part of a Wallow Burned Area Emergency Response Team project. The project involves felling burned hazard trees along major forest road corridors in order to reduce fuel loads and provide wood for local industry.
Although this effort is part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), it hasn’t stopped the introduction of the Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act, legislation introduced by Congressmen Paul Gosar, Jeff Flake, and Steve Pearce… the bill basically aims to speed up the removal of hazardous, dead and dying trees in the affected area.
Under the Act, the removal projects must be carried out within 18 months following its enactment to ensure the work is done while the resources are still salvageable.
Senator Jon Kyl recently introduced similar legislation, the Arizona Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act, in the U.S. Senate. He said the measure would help stem the delays that hampered salvage efforts after the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002.
In Her Own Words…
I can tell you that for the folks who were affected by Rodeo-Chediski in 2002, this fire is bringing back many painful memories for people… the anxiety about whether your community will be affected, the feeling of helplessness if you are forced to evacuate, and the desperation to know whether your community or property was spared or burned; and watching the news in hopes of seeing your property, and hoping that it is still standing.
We were at our cabin this past weekend (June 3-4) and I decided to ride over to the Eagar/Greer area to take pictures (I enjoy photography). In Eagar, it was pretty much like “business as usual,” just a lot of smoke in the air. Greer was under pre-evacuation orders and most of the cabins already seemed to be empty by the time I got there. I did see a few folks packing up their belongings and leaving the area. The only place that seemed to be busy was the little restaurant near the resort.
Although terrified, most people affected realize that life is more important than property, and are thankful for the time to gather belongings and evacuate if necessary (as opposed to, say, a tornado situation).
A scary thought crossed my mind this morning as I was preparing to post this latest blog and a batch of Wallow Fire photos (courtesy of my new Flickr friend, Carolyn Willey from Sierra Vista, Arizona): What if people start becoming numb to the images and updates about the Wallow Fire? What if people stop paying attention and move on to the next news story? When will we reach that point where we see yet another story about the Wallow Fire and we just flip the channel?
What if we fail to learn the lessons of this massive blaze? And what if it happens again?
Arizona is our home, and as this story plays out on TV and via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr), it’s our responsibility to keep it top of mind … to never forget how susceptible our forests are to fire … to be hyper-aware of what human negligence can lead to … to never forget the heroes who tirelessly work to protect homes, save lives and extinguish the flames.
I think this quote pretty much sums it up: Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.
And the price has already gone up — a lot. As of today, the Wallow Fire has eclipsed the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski blaze in terms of total acres burned, making it the largest wildfire in Arizona history. In an effort to help keep history from repeating itself, Arizona Highways is committed to wildfire prevention through education. In the coming months, you’ll hear more from us about the importance of being smart when it comes to visiting our forests: learn how to properly put out a campfire, don’t use fireworks in restricted areas, don’t toss cigarette butts out the window, etc. Because, let’s face it, every one of those acts can have dire consequences.
So here’s what we’re asking: When the Wallow Fire becomes last week’s news, please do your part to never forget the kind of devastation fire can inflict on our state. That’s right, OUR STATE.
Images courtesy of Wallow Fire Information / US Forest Service, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
It’s hard to watch the news, but there’s no point in turning off the television. The images are everywhere: Facebook, Flickr, Twitter. Especially Twitter. Of all the mainstream social media, Twitter is the best for breaking news. Coups in Egypt. Earthquakes in Japan. Wildfires in Arizona. The information is essential, but it’s hard to look at the catastrophe that’s unfolding in the White Mountains.
As editor-in-chief of Arizona Highways, I’m often asked about my favorite place in the state. It’s an impossible question, because there are so many places, but when I’m pushed, I usually admit it’s a tossup between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Hannagan Meadow in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, because of the cataclysm known as the Wallow Fire, there’s no longer a debate. It’s hard to imagine there will be anything left of Hannagan Meadow and the surrounding forests by the time the fire is finally put out.
As I write this blog, the blaze, which began on May 29, has already consumed 336,000 acres, and the wind gusts of more than 60 mph are making matters worse. At this point, zero percent of the fire has been contained. Zero percent. The fire is now the second largest in Arizona history, and it’s probably only a matter of time before it surpasses Rodeo-Chediski — two fires, both caused by human negligence, that merged as one.
It seems like just yesterday when that inferno was raging, but it’s been almost 10 years. And time isn’t healing the wound. Not for me, anyway. I still get heavy-hearted when I drive across the Mogollon Rim and see the apocalyptic devastation. It’s upsetting, and so is the Wallow Fire. Upsetting, depressing, sorrowful … there aren’t any words strong enough to describe what I’m feeling. I never thought I’d live to see anything as bad as Rodeo-Chediski, much less something worse. But that’s how the Wallow Fire is playing out, and like Rodeo-Chediski, we’re all in a state of shock.
It’s the same shock we feel during any other disaster. Certainly, you can’t compare Engelmann spruce and Douglas firs to the victims of a tsunami or an earthquake, but there is a similar feeling of helplessness and hopelessness when you see the dramatic photos, and when you think about what’s been lost and how that will decimate the local economies. And just when you think you couldn’t feel any worse, you think about how the Wallow Fire shouldn’t be burning at all. Although lightning fires do occur, this one was started by someone who forgot to pack his thinking cap when he headed into the great outdoors.
The details of how the fire got started are still being investigated, but according to officials of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, it was caused by a human being. Whether it was ignited by a cigarette butt, fireworks, an unattended campfire … we don’t know. Either way, somebody made a mistake. A big mistake. I was fortunate enough to be raised by an avid outdoorsman who taught me how to be careful in the forest and how to properly extinguish a campfire. But even without that training, you’d think common sense would prevail when it comes to fire. It doesn’t. It certainly didn’t for the person or persons responsible for the Wallow Fire. Or the person or persons responsible for the Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, the Murphy Fire in the Atascosa Mountains, and all the others.
Ironically, unlike a raging forest fire, it’s pretty simple to put out a campfire. However, before you even think about firing up a portable stove or building a campfire, check with the area’s governing agency beforehand. Fire restrictions may apply during times of high fire danger. Times like now. DO NOT IGNORE THE WARNINGS.
When there aren’t any fire restrictions in place, and you’re at a campsite where fires are allowed, use only established fire pits, and put out your fire at least 60 minutes before you start to break camp. Let the fire die down, then pour water over the wood and ashes and cover them with soil. Mix the soil, water and ashes until the fire and any embers are completely out. Then, wait around for at least another hour to make sure it’s safe to leave. Again, use common sense and always adhere to the Leave No Trace Ethics.
If there’s a bright side to the Wallow Fire, it’s that no one has been seriously injured so far. Some of that is luck, but most of it is a credit to the incredible men and women who risk their lives to save our forests and our cabins and our favorite places. Last summer, almost to the day, I was stranded at Hannagan Meadow Lodge because of the Paradise Fire, which was burning in the adjacent Blue Range Primitive Area. The firefighters used the lodge as a staging area, and I had an opportunity to interact with many of them and talk about their heroic efforts. Of course, they didn’t see themselves as heroes. It was just another day on the job for them. But they are heroes, and we owe them a sincere debt of gratitude — for what they’ve accomplished so far, and for what lies ahead.
Time will tell what’s left of the woods when the Wallow Fire has finally finished burning, but this much we know: One of the most beautiful places in the world, one of my favorite places in Arizona, is being destroyed, and it’ll never be the same. Not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime, and not in the lifetime of the perpetrator who ignited this mess. I have no expectation that the authorities will ever track down the people responsible for the three large fires now burning in Arizona, but at the very least, I hope they’re sitting at home, glued to their televisions and thinking, How in the hell could I have been so stupid?
Let’s learn from their mistakes, and let’s hope history quits repeating itself. Meanwhile, let’s all pray for rain.
— Robert Stieve, editor-in-chief, Arizona Highways