So far, so good. Thanks to fire restrictions, cooperative campers, minimal lightning storms and raw good luck, the Rim Country has been spared any serious forest fires so far this summer season. In fact, we've had half as many small fires as at this time last year. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors have not been so lucky.
Across the country at this moment, harried fire crews are confronting 46 large fires, including seven in Arizona. California has 27 major fires going, after a powerful lightning storm sparked more than 1,400 blazes.
One of the biggest regional fires is in Crown King, where some people have lost their homes to a wildfire started by lost hikers trying to draw attention from a search party trying to find them. Fortunately, only minor fires have so far gotten started on in Rim Country -- mostly as a result of lightning strikes. This weekend, that included one half-acre fire in the Payson Ranger district and four fires started by lightning strikes in the neighboring Pleasant Valley Ranger District, the largest of which grew to 10 acres.
Major fires burning in Arizona include:
- Black Mesa, San Carlos Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1,744 acres at 85 percent contained. This fire is 10 miles northeast of San Carlos.
- Crystal Peak, San Carlos Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1,058 acres at 80 percent contained. This fire is 23 miles south of San Carlos.
- Lane 2, in the Prescott National Forest, 5,300 acres at zero percent contained. This fire is 14 miles northwest of Black Canyon City. Wind-driven fire behavior was reported. Structures, power lines, communication facilities, and historic sites are threatened. Crown King was evacuated.
- Distillery, Coronado National Forest, 8,075 acres at 85 percent contained. The fire is 10 miles east of Vail. Firefighters are monitoring the fire.
- Ethan, Pima Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 6,661 acres at 85 percent contained. This fire is 12 miles southwest of Phoenix.
- Bear Mountain, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, 21,000 acres at zero percent contained. This fire is 20 miles south of Alpine. Firefighters are monitoring the fire.
- Walla Valley, Grand Canyon National Park, 435 acres at 35 percent contained. This fire is 53 miles southeast of Kanab, Utah.
The Rim Country has not been spared in the past and many residents know what it feels like to breathe the heavy smoke and experience the fear of having your house burn.
As Rim Country residents we enjoy the forest lands and it is our place to hike, hunt, fish, ride our quads and bikes or just enjoy the beauty. It is our land and we all need to be on the watch for any sign of fire.
Coconino, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves national forest officials have all banned campfires, smoking and any type of open flame due to the extreme dryness. It is up to forest users to respect this fire ban and with the upcoming Fourth of July weekend it will be more important than ever.
One of the busiest three-day weekends of the year for the Rim Country is upon us with the extra threat of fireworks being set off on forest lands. An innocent sparkler or firecracker used in the wrong place could cause major devastation, as could an errant cigarette ash, or some other open flame. As always, fireworks remain illegal in Arizona.
It is important for everyone to be careful this weekend. Forest officials have told us they are on pins and pine needles because of the dry conditions, so we must make our own luck by respecting the fire bans in place, and being ever watchful over the public lands we love so much.