Tag Archives: Slide Fire

Oak Creek Canyon Closures Announced

David Creech‎ | Oak Creek

David Creech‎ | Oak Creek

Bad news if you’re headed to Oak Creek Canyon this holiday weekend. From our friends at the U.S. Forest Service:

SEDONA, Ariz. – The Coconino National Forest has expanded the Slide Fire emergency closure area to include all National Forest land within Oak Creek Canyon beginning Thursday (July 3).

The closure is being implemented for public safety due to the risks associated with flooding from monsoon, debris flow and the limited ability to quickly inform and evacuate people along Oak Creek if a flood event were to occur.

The closure boundary expansion will include all National Forest land within Oak Creek Canyon from the northern switchbacks to an area near the southern Huckaby trailhead at Schnebly Hill Road. All developed recreation sites and vehicle pullouts along State Route 89A will be closed.  To view the official Closure Order and a map of the entire closure area, visit http://tinyurl.com/nmwp8co.

The closure only affects National Forest land, roads, and trails within the closure area on the Coconino National Forest.  The closure does not affect any private, state, county, or other non-National Forest lands or roads within the closure boundary.

Additionally, the public water Sterling Springs standpipe in Oak Creek Canyon has been shut off to protect the water system from potential contamination, silt and debris during flooding.

The following information sources have been established for the public to obtain information about the status of Oak Creek Canyon and preparing for possible monsoon flooding in the canyon:

Oak Creek Canyon Information Hotline: 928-203-7505

Coconino County’s Slide Fire Area Monsoon Flood Preparation web page: http://www.coconino.az.gov/slidefloodinformation.

For visitors looking who had plans to visit Oak Creek Canyon during this time of the year, alternatives to recreating at Oak Creek Canyon can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/n2lfxto.

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Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Fire Photo Submissions Wanted for Juried Exhibit

Garland's Oak Creek Lodge

Photo courtesy of Mary Garland

The Sedona Arts Center is joining forces with the two Rotary Clubs of Sedona to host a juried photo exhibit called The Slide Fire Story: A Tribute to Oak Creek Canyon. Submissions are being sought, and anyone can participate. Photographs can be from Oak Creek before or after the fire, or of the fire itself. Video submissions are welcome, too. The deadline is Friday, June 20.

Images should be sent as jpegs and should not exceed 5 megabytes. Send them to slidefirephotography@gmail.com.

Below, David Simmer, professional photographer in Sedona and president of both the Sedona Arts Center and one of the participating rotary clubs, talks about the upcoming show, which opens July 10.

How did this exhibit come to be?
During the fire, the smoke that settled into Sedona was a constant reminder of the battle that was going on to contain the blaze and preserve Oak Creek Canyon. I’m a professional photographer, and I happen to be the incoming president of one of the local rotary clubs. I am also the president of the Sedona Arts Center. So, all of these pieces started fitting together for me. Rotarians are experienced to fundraise for local causes. And the arts center is always looking for opportunities to exhibit relevant art, and few places have more photographers than Sedona. The pieces all seemed to come together to have the local rotary clubs put together an exhibit of photography to be shown on the edge of the canyon at the arts center. I ended up floating the idea by a couple of trusted friends, and it just took off from there.

Can anyone contribute photos? What are you looking for in terms of submissions?
Yes, we welcome photos from anyone who has an image that relates to the impact of the fire. It could be an image showing residents of the canyon who were displaced from their homes, or animals that were likewise forced to flee, or a firefighter on break, or images that show the outpouring of appreciation of locals for the work of the firefighters to minimize the damage. We are looking for any images that reflect the impact of the fire. Amateur or professional, we don’t care. Actually, in this day and age, some of the best images are taken on cellphones because of the immediacy of the photograph. The images should be sent to slidefirephotography@gmail.com. That will allow us to easily communicate with the photographers and let them know what is going on. I should mention that we will be doing all the printing for the exhibit and will not be selling the images. We are only going to exhibit them, and we will be acknowledging the photographers whose images are selected.

Why are videos part of the project?
As we were working with our art director, Lynette Jennings, for the exhibit, she mentioned that she has seen some video of the plume of smoke rising over the canyon, and it made her wonder what other video might be out there. And when you think about it, we live in a world in which people commonly carry not only a camera, but also a video camera on them at all times in their smartphones. Lynette suggested that we ask not only for still images, but also for video. Who knows what people might have — that could be compelling footage of the early stages of the fire, or of the evacuation, or of locals bringing supplies to support the firefighters. That might really bring home the story of the fire and its impact.

What do you and your colleagues hope to accomplish with the exhibit?
There are a lot of intangible benefits from this event. We think it will be an opportunity for our community to come together to focus on what an important part of Sedona that Oak Creek Canyon is. We think it will also help us all to focus on the risk of fire and the need to be diligent and responsible when it comes to our actions and those of others. Beyond raising awareness, we would like to raise funds that will be used to mitigate the impact and that will help train firefighters who will be working across our state on these disasters. We will be splitting the proceeds from the event between the Slide Fire Disaster Response Fund of the Arizona Community Foundation and the Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy, where all the firefighters train for these types of fires.

What has the mood been like in Sedona after the fire?
From my conversations, there is, of course, a general mood of relief and incredible appreciation that the Slide Fire has been extinguished. But there is also an undercurrent that this isn’t the last of it. This is a reminder that we are still at high risk for fires because of the drought. And there are concerns about what the fire might mean for potential flooding during the monsoon season.


Filed under Make a Difference, Photography

Guest Blog: The Lost Jewel by Larry Lindahl


Courtesy of Larry Lindahl

Courtesy of Larry Lindahl

Since the Slide Fire was first reported on May 20, the blaze has burned 21,217 acres of Oak Creek Canyon and is 90 percent contained. Below, photographer Larry Lindahl shares his thoughts about the fire and its aftermath.

The smoke blanket hangs motionless, obstructing majestic Thunder Mountain into a blue-gray ghost. Out of sight, over the rise, hidden from the masses, the burning of canyons and cliffs between Flagstaff and Sedona continues a slow but certain death. All we see is the smoke, transient evidence of mass destruction.

Many of us grieve, feeling the sadness of loss, knowing the jewel of Sedona, West Fork, will be severely altered by this devastation. The media has the maps and incident reports, numbers of personnel, lists of equipment, measurements, action plans and the reassurance that no structures were lost. And, thankfully, no human lives.

But for many of us, the loss is deeply emotional, a feeling of helplessness, anger, depression, longing for what was and remembering. Oh, yes, remembering. For me, West Fork was a church and a school, a playground and a sanctuary, a friend and a favorite relative, the ancient past and now an uncertain future.

Assuming the maps and reports of the fire are accurate, I brace for the reality that West fork is burnt beyond recognition, a disfigured and charred presence that once breathed as a beautiful and vibrant living being.

Some avoid the pain of loss with anger, withdrawal and denial. Some give the quick answer that West Fork will return, nature heals, fire is natural. Yes, and so is death and dying, and deep sadness. In the darkness of what has been lost are memories, only memories, and a grieving soul knows it can never return to what was.

Being with the mystery of emotions is not easy in our culture. “Get over it and move on” is our society’s way of handling the uncomfortable. I am not one who can escape these emotions. It’s been hard many times, but I feel the entire spectrum. West Fork, I cried for you yesterday.

My emotion slowly shifted, I’m entering the void of acceptance, walking through the pain of loss, and then last night it rained, and I felt the sky was crying, too.

West Fork was my church and school. I married my wife, Wendy, in West Fork on a brisk winter morning with a dusting of snow in the shadows. Our two lives were meeting to flow as one at the confluence of West Fork and Oak Creek, two streams meeting to flow as one.

Months earlier, I was photographing Wendy, on a warm afternoon near the confluence, doing her favorite yoga poses for a promotional flyer. We felt that first flutter of attraction not far from where we would give our vows to each other there in West Fork.

West Fork was my school as well as my church. It’s where I learned to connect with the subtle energies of nature. It’s where I learned to preserve a temporal moment in a photograph that held the imprint of those subtle energies.

And from that school I began having my photography published in Arizona Highways. A two-page photo spread of West Fork in early morning, the water making a crystal-clear reflection of what was above — a mirror of heaven on Earth — opened my second photo portfolio. The magazine article was titled Secret Sedona and garnered the magazine an international nature-photography award.

From that magazine article came a book with West Fork pictured on the back cover, one of seven photos of the canyon in the book Secret Sedona. On a special day in my life, I sat with the Arizona Highways books editor at Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market in Oak Creek Canyon. We sat in back and ate lunch, and I signed the contract, a moment that would change my life in so many interesting ways.

Afterward, we took an afternoon hike together in that very special place called West Fork. Halfway in, a bright-red, black and white bird caught an insect in mid-air only a few feet in front of me. Those moments in West Fork are so very special in my heart: so much beautiful history, so many vivid memories.

West Fork was my playground and sanctuary. Several summers ago, I backpacked, with one of my best friends, the entire length from near Flagstaff down to the confluence in Oak Creek Canyon. He and I scrambled along with his two boys, plunging into pools of cold, clear water and floating our gear through slot canyons before setting camp on a sandy beach in the heart of the canyon.

Our trip ended as a warm and gentle rain fell quietly from the summer sky. The glisten of rain made the rose-and-peach sandstone deep with color. Delicate flowers and grasses grew between river cobbles and cracks in the bedrock. It was moist with life, vulnerable and open. Secret gardens were waiting where hidden pools invited us to swim. The warm mists were primal and welcome. We shared our experiences soul to soul. We explored and played in this Eden.

West Fork was a sanctuary and a playground. It comforted me and healed me. It held me in its silent embrace. The breath of God touched it on a daily basis. It was nothing less than my vision of true paradise.

I’ve hiked in West Fork with my parents, authors, photographers and photography students, and my wife and friends, yet mostly by myself.

In the solitude, uninterrupted, listening and discovering, I found hummingbirds raising their young, fish darting to the next pool, butterflies by the dozen on one cluster of flowers, bergamots in bloom, monkeyflowers, golden columbines, lupines, penstemons, great blue herons, Cooper’s hawks, Steller’s jays, Coconino sandstone, red cliffs of Supai formation, maples and alders, clouds and blue sky.

But not today. Right now, as I write these words, the sky is thick with gray smoke. West Fork is burning, and there’s nothing we can do. The church is on fire, the school is burning, the playground is in flames, and the sanctuary is covered in ash. One of my best friends is dying today, just over the horizon.

I mourn the loss. Don’t tell me fire is natural — this one wasn’t. Don’t tell me it will come back again — not like the paradise I knew. Don’t tell me to move on, that life is about change — I need to feel and not turn away from these emotions. I am truly sad, and there’s honestly nothing I want to change about that. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. If the sky can cry, so can I.

—Larry Lindahl


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#SlideFire Burns 21,067 Acres; 55 Percent Contained

Sarah Dolliver‎

Sarah Dolliver‎

It’s day nine, and the Slide Fire has burned 21,067 acres and is now 55 percent contained. Here’s an update from the Incident Information System about the fire’s behavior:

Slide Fire: Variable Low to High Intensity Fire Effects

The Slide Fire resulted in a variety of fire effects across the landscape, as fuel types, weather, and topography changed. As a fast-moving wind-driven event early on, high-intensity fire behavior occurred in limited areas. Within the fire ‘footprint’ a variable mosaic pattern also formed with areas of high intensity surrounded by lower intensity effects. High intensity fire behavior generally means longer flame lengths with 75% or higher live foliage consumption. As the fire progressed, fire managers introduced lower intensity ignition operations, which consumed surface fuels in a controlled manner and served to mitigate additional fire effects.

View the entire photo album at http://tinyurl.com/ock2mv3

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Wallow Fire: Three Years Later and Why Leave No Trace Matters

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Three years ago today, two men — cousins Caleb and David Malboeuf — were camping in the Bear Wallow Wilderness when they walked away from their partially extinguished campfire. Their irresponsibility resulted in the Wallow Fire, which scorched 535,000 acres of forest. Arizonans continue to pay for their carelessness, and it’s a debt that will be passed to our children. Yes, we’ve seen signs of regrowth, but it’ll be another century before the area looks as it once did. It’s heartbreaking. But perhaps what’s even more upsetting is the fact that maybe, just maybe, the fire might not have happened at all had the Malboeufs understood and followed the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

And now another wildfire is burning. So far, the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon has charred 20,369 acres. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning: it’s hot and bone-dry in places. And there is the very real possibility that another wildfire could eclipse Wallow. So, what can we do? Below, Arizona Leave No Trace advocate and master educator Cindy de Leon Reilly talks about Leave No Trace and why it’s time to pay attention to these seven principles.

What is Leave No Trace, and how did these principles come to be?
Our forests have always been used by people for recreation, to get out and enjoy them for various reasons. With this came various destructive behaviors in the outdoors. Some examples are leaving trash behind, feeding the animals, chopping trees down and playing with fire. We were literally killing our forests. In the 1960s, the U.S. Forest Service noticed these impacts. As recreationists and visitors, we rarely saw these effects.

The start of the Leave No Trace movement was in the 1980s, with the Forest Service and its “No Trace” program that focused on wilderness ethics and travel and camping practices.  In 1990s, the Forest Service partnered with the National Outdoor Leadership School to create a hands-on, science-based training to start educating others in outdoor skills, which reinforced the “No Trace” standards. Eventually, other outdoor for-profit and nonprofit organizations and federal land-management agencies joined the efforts and created an independent nonprofit organization called Leave No Trace Inc. and its principles.

Over the years, Leave No Trace Inc. evolved into the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The original principles evolved to include an extra principle, giving us seven total. The seven principles are:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Dispose of Waste Properly

Leave What You Find

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Respect Wildlife

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

 This year, there have been 488 wildfires in Arizona; all but 20 or so were human caused. What is the general public missing when it comes to LNT?
Honestly, the general public does not really think about their impact when they are outdoors.  Its almost like it does not apply to them. There are two kinds of users, backcountry and frontcountry. Backcountry users, such as backpackers, are those who go to isolated areas that are not accessible by vehicles.  Most of these users are aware of the Leave No Trace principles. They learn about the principles through outdoor retailers like REI, or outdoor entities like this publication. Also, the principles are typically posted on public-land websites and at offices where one obtains recreation permits.

Frontcountry means those areas easily accessible by vehicles. These are areas such as campgrounds and nearby trails. Even though the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics partners with the Forest Service and other similar entities, and gets the word out through campsite postings and education, many outdoor frontcountry users do not read or care to practice these principles because they are only thinking about having fun. I have seen many frontcountry users ignore the rules and the principles.  Of course, not all backcountry users follow the rules, either. Is a bonfire necessary to have the campfire ambience? Is a campfire really necessary?

This week is the anniversary of Wallow Fire. What goes through your mind as you look back on that fire, and how could have LNT prevented that blaze?
It is my understanding that two men, who left their fire unattended, started the fire.  Principle 7 of Leave No Trace is Minimize Campfire Impacts.  This principle includes the following:

·      Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking, and enjoy a candle lantern for light.

·      Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires.

·      Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.

·      Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely and scatter cool ashes. 

Had these men put out their fire completely before they left their site, then this devastating fire could have been prevented.  Even if a fire was in a campsite and within a fire ring, one should always make sure that their fire site is out cold.  Cold means that when you place your hand upon the fire site, you should feel no warmth.  Sometimes there are smoldering embers beneath the surface that we cannot see.  But if we feel for it, then a fire can be avoided.

According to the Incident Information System, the Slide Fire is human caused, though still under investigation. Long term, what do you think will happen if, moving forward, we do not implement LNT in our daily lives?
People, especially in Arizona, should understand that lands in our Southwest regions are very dry and overly sensitive to fire impacts.  Having a water shortage makes it worse.  If we do not implement Leave No Trace and its principles, the impacts of wildfire will happen more often. People will start fires anywhere, regardless of rules and conditions.  There is a common-sense attitude about the principles and education. This is to make things safer and better. Leave No Trace is not supposed to be an inconvenience. I believe that Leave No Trace and its principles have been minimizing the impact of fires in our region.

How can the public help spread the word about LNT?
Many organizations, public and private, are spreading the word about Leave No Trace. Upon learning the principles, share them and their importance.  Spreading the word is educating.

The Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics has been working hard with many organizations and corporations in supporting educational training and awareness workshops. Although the training may have a cost, depending on where you take it, from a master educator/trainer point of view, it’s worth learning and preserving the outdoors and practicing outdoor ethics.

As an Arizona advocate, I get the word out and help provide training and awareness workshops. The trainers are all volunteers and knowledgeable to give Leave No Trace.  They teach Leave No Trace through hands-on activities and games.

To learn and spread the work, request information from Leave No Trace. Contact your state advocate for options and opportunities to have Leave No Trace visit your troop or organization and help you implement Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace trainers are volunteers. We believe in Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.  Contact me to get you the information.

And not only learn it, but practice it and share it with your organization.  It may take a while to educate, but in the long run, it will be worth it. It is a worthwhile cause.

What are some simple things the public can do now that will help protect our outdoor spaces?
Throw your trash away in designated areas. This includes food items that will attract wildlife, a safety and health issue for both the animal and us. Additionally, make sure cigarettes are fully extinguished and properly thrown away.

Do not play with matches, lighters or fire. Some people are fascinated with fire. Teach them the dangers of fire and teach then how to properly use them for when they need to use this tool.

Store flammables away correctly as directed.

Cut tree branches away from flammable areas, such as those hanging over chimneys.

Keep in mind that if you have to build a fire that is not in an established fire ring, please consider the location of your fire. Typically, tree-root systems lay as far as the tree canopy.  Do not place your fire under the canopy area, since the root system may catch on fire and travel.  This is known as root fire and is also considered very dangerous.  After your fire, put it out cold, then dismantle it and leave no trace.

Be prepared, be aware of the rules and follow them. Rules are made to protect the area and us. There may be a fire restriction or water concerns. There may be sick or dangerous animal situations in the area. Rules are made to protect the environment and us.

Talk to me about the programs your organization offers.
We have volunteer trainers who are available to share Leave No Trace with you.  There is the REI PEAK program; you can borrow these kits from REI or purchase them online. Traveling Trainers provide workshops and attend events to share Leave No Trace at no cost; just make your request for their appearance online. They are a terrific addition to any event or visit. Backyard sessions are when a trainer comes over and talks about Leave No Trace to your group. You can talk to your state advocate about scheduling these opportunities. Leave No Trace has some grant opportunities to cover educational materials and training costs.  More information on this is online at www.LNT.org. Hot Spots is a conservation-related program. It is based on nominating locations in need of major improvements due to the destruction suffered.  Then Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics will work with others to bring the location back to its original natural state.

You offer LNT principles for kids; what tips can you offer parents who want to teach their children how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly?
Working with kids is fun! We work with many kid organizations, Scouts, schools and clubs for children. The key component to teaching children is to make it short and fun. Some of the fun is through games and hands-on activities.  Create an LNT Bingo game for a hike, create a cootie catcher with the principles, and teach them to be considerate to others and their environment, as you would expect them to be at school and home. Take the online awareness course, too.

There are many resources to help teach children Leave No Trace. For example, you can go to your local REI and borrow the PEAK program.  This program was created by REI, through their partnership with the center, to provide an outdoor ethics kit to teach kids Leave No Trace.  This kit contains cards with games and materials that can be used, making it fun to learn Leave No Trace. REI also offers free workshops, often hosted by the Traveling Trainers, where they love to teach with children and other organizations about Leave No Trace.

You can contact your Leave No Trace state advocate to arrange a visit or send you Leave No Trace material for your use.

For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/LNTAZ or http://lnt.org/get-involved/state/az.

You can also contact de Leon Reilly at: AZadvocate@lnt.org 

—Kathy Ritchie


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Arizona Highways Contributor John Sherman Talks About the #SlideFire

John Sherman

John Sherman

Contributing Arizona Highways photographer John (a.k.a. “Verm”) Sherman was in the Verde Valley when the Slide Fire started. Over the next couple of days, Sherman captured several photographs of the fire. Since it was first reported, the fire has burned 20,369 acres of forest. Below, he talks about what he witnessed:

I was in Page Springs down in the Verde Valley, shooting near the fish hatchery on Oak Creek, when the fire started. I could see a cloud building up over the hills north of the hatchery. The skies were clear everywhere else, and I thought, “Oh, no, that must be a fire.” Dawn Kish and I had planned to climb Oak Creek Spire the next day, but the smoke descended into Sedona (as seen in Ted Grussing’s fine aerial shots), and we scrubbed that plan. Instead, we went out to the Cottonwood-to-Clarkdale scenic drive to try and shoot the fire at night. I had driven it a couple months back and thought it would give a view of the fire atop the red cliffs. I shot with two cameras that night and exposed thousands of RAW frames in hopes of assembling time-lapse sequences later.

The next morning we woke to irritating smoke, so we escaped over to Prescott so we could get some climbing in. It gave me a chance to to review the first set of images, then plan to try for more fire and stars shots. I had heard about the much-anticipated Camelopardalis meteor shower due Friday night and was thinking it would make unique shots to record that celestial event happening above the fire. We drove up to the top of Mingus Mountain for the meteor show, set up our cameras and lawn chairs, and waited for the show. As it turned out, the meteor shower was a bust. I only saw one shooting star, and that one failed to grant my wish for hundreds more to bless my images.  Nevertheless, I shot through the night and into the dawn, which was when I saw the big plume form. It bubbled up into the sky looking like a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast, then stretched out to the east with wind shear up high (as the lower part of the plume slowly moved west).

John Sherman

John Sherman

John Sherman

For the sake of our lungs, we moved around based on wind direction. We got back to Flagstaff on Sunday night, and it was a bit smoky downtown and around NAU, but relatively clear in the town’s higher elevations. By Monday morning, the winds had shifted enough that Flagstaff was clear. The mood here is good, and we’re thankful that the winds shifted and lessened – and, of course, thankful for the hard work of the firefighters. It’s scary to think of how bad it could have gotten if the winds had stayed as strong as the first few days.

John Sherman

John Sherman

As to what was going through my mind — at first it was mostly trying not to botch the tricky exposures. Then, once things were set up and the camera was doing its own thing, I would ponder the aftermath of the fire. As you know, I love photographing wildlife. I had gone down to Page Springs to photograph the common black-hawks raising their family when the fire started. I wondered if the smoke would cause the black-hawk parents to flee. And of course, I couldn’t help but think about all the other baby animals that couldn’t escape the fire.

On a positive note, we stopped at Kaibab Lake on the drive back to Flagstaff, where I checked to see if the smoke had driven off the ospreys. I’m glad to report that I saw a parent tending the nest, so they hung tough through the smoke.  I haven’t been able to check in on the black-hawks, but I hope they’re doing well.

To see more of John Sherman’s work, visit: Vermphoto.com or to watch a time lapse of the fire, visit http://www.vermphoto.com/blog/2014/5/burn-baby-stop-timelapse-from-slide-fire

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