Christopher Creek was in the crosshairs, it seemed, in late June 1990. The wildfire that was bearing down on us, as well as the death and destruction it caused, has been well chronicled over the years. That which was happening here in the Creek was part of the story. It was happening in Tonto Village, Mead-Collins Ranch, Kohl’s Ranch, Thompson Draw and Bear Flat, as well. The Dude, you see, was an equal opportunity terrorist.
By midday, Tuesday, the fire had moved several miles to the east and was picking up steam. A fella from the Creek, named Burt Cafferter, was driving his motor home, frantically, back and forth, to evacuate people and animals out of Bonita Creek before that subdivision was burned.
Six firefighters died that day.
By late Tuesday, here in the Creek, a “war room” was laid out on the pool table of the Landmark, consisting of a map of the Tonto National Forest and the first of the Forest Service update sheets. The update showed the fire perimeter and the assets involved in the fight. Long before Twitter and the Southwest Incident Command Web site, the daily update was all we had. It was useful if you wanted information that was 24 hours old.
KMOG radio was our other source of information and that was not very forthcoming. At night the station powered down and reception here was iffy. Young nephew, Kevin, had the job of monitoring fire updates on the radio ... a job he tired of quite quickly.
Soon the first wave of hundreds of phone inquiries were coming in as the Valley television stations picked up on the news and folks from all over were calling to get a handle on what was happening here.
Sunset on the Rim, at a “special place” was recently the setting for a couple of eighth-grade sweethearts of some 40 years ago. Her tears flowed as Bill English asked Susan Keown for her hand in marriage. Congratulations go out to them both ... and happy trails!
The “Geos” were in Christopher Creek last Saturday night celebrating the completion of three weeks of study under the Rim. Professor Tom Sharp and 23 of his geology students from ASU worked grueling 16-hour days and covered more than 150 miles hiking the ridges and canyons. Their focus was in the Horton, Tonto and Christopher Creek drainages. On this evening, however, the focus was dinner, “awards,” much laughter and singing. Each, to a person, vowed a return to the Christopher Creek area in the future.
Sitting in Creekside, Saturday evening, we enjoyed listening to Marshall Trimble recall all the names of all the 1951 New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers position players. He is as much a baseball guy as he is a renowned Arizona historian.
No free firewood
This is a reminder to Creek residents that there is no free firewood from the recent thinning along the ridge on the Ashby property. An apology from the individuals who passed along the bad information has been made. A special thanks to Caren Christianson for her efforts in to educate those who had been misinformed, including me.
Get ready for parade
Formation for the 6th of July Independence Day Parade will commence at 10:30 a.m. at the Tall Pines Market. Now, get to decorating!
Back in the day ...
June 26, 1990, Tuesday, we began getting smoke and ash from the fire here in the Creek, and in Kohl’s Ranch, as well. Incoming Hotshot crews from points east were passing through town on Highway 260 heading to Control Road for deployment. The local CKFD fellas were assigned to the Baptist Camp and loaded up for the fight. Ray MacDonald, who had a cabin in See Canyon, brought up a pickup load of bottled water. He then loaded up some valuables from the cabin and headed back to the Valley.
Later that day, Olive and her crew at Creekside started in building sandwiches, which were shuttled from time to time to firefighters, along with bottled water. It was hot!
The huge plumes that built up in the afternoon were an ominous sight. Folks in the Creek were beginning to get nervous. What had seemed far away was now close enough to see ... and smell. A few people were showing up to load what possessions they deemed worthy of saving. Some would stop by to wish “good luck” to the ones remaining. This fire was not “laying down” after sunset, a sunset that was a very eerie orange and black. A phone call to the Double D late Tuesday evening gave us the impression that all was calm in Tonto Village. They were in the thick of it and knew little more than we did. The Dude was still comin’ and Wednesday was going to be a long day ... and that’s another week in the Creek.