Christopher Creek celebrates the tremendous efforts of the Incident Command Teams and especially the long, hot, tireless fight of the wildland fire crews numbering more than 700. Their success in keeping the Bush Fire between the highways was incredible. We also commend the efforts of the ADOT teams who prepared the Beeline for reopening in record time.
Here in the Creek, our inconveniences seem trivial compared to those who worked the fire. We had many days of smoke and ash. We had some closures of restaurants and cancellations or postponement of scheduled events. Travel to and from the Valley was lengthy and many weekenders stayed at home last weekend. There was a definite economic impact on our businesses here in town.
It is difficult to write of remembrances of the Dude Fire on the 30th anniversary without trying to draw some parallels with the Bush Fire, but there are few. The Bush is more than six times as large as the Dude, which was a large fire in its day. No structures were lost in the recent fire as opposed to the well over 100 dwellings lost 30 years ago. Six firefighters died on June 26, 1990, while there were no deaths during the Bush Fire.
Very large air tankers were non-existent 30 years back.
The information age has brought with it a multitude of places to find news, or maps, or road closure information, and even a site where one can track flights of air attack craft in real-time.
One commonality between the two fires is the burn scars. The scar of the Dude Fire remains, though the intervening three decades has seen much growth of new trees and undergrowth to diminish it. The drive through the beautiful, pristine high desert area will be gone, but only for a while.
While remembering the events here in the Creek during the Dude Fire, we must also acknowledge the efforts of our local fire department volunteers. Dale Ashby was chief back then, but he was wearing two hats. As he was still with the Forest Service, he had duties with them. Jim Oliver took over handing out assignments to volunteers, among them Bob Luzzon, Everett Griffin, Paul Ozman, Gary Fisher, Mel and Pam Milhon, Bob Eggers, and perhaps others. Red Armistead and Scotty VanEckhoutte were both volunteers, but were manning the gas station full time. Dale said duties included notification of people in Kohl’s Ranch and Tonto Estates as to evacuation status. Some others were at a spike camp, pulling hose and readying for structure protection in the Baptist Camp area. With them were Payson Fire and the then Diamond Star departments. The fire burned through the hatchery area, but never got to them.
Along about the fifth day of the fire, the weather changed. The 11-mile advance of the fire toward the Creek changed direction. The fire burned up Tonto Creek canyon and stayed away from the backside of Promontory. By July 1, the fire crews were on the Rim holding the burn area to a minimum. The Dude Fire was in check.
There was also great support from our business community back then. Along with Red’s station staying open around the clock for days on end, so too did his wife, Jo, keep Jo’s Market open. Olive at Creekside made boxes of sandwiches to ship to our firefighters, as did Tony and Janie at the Landmark. Both restaurants stayed open even though there were scant few folks around.
For days following containment, SR 260, which came through the Creek at the time, remained closed. We had no Fourth of July that year — a few residents and no weekenders. You could have shot a cannon through town.
We will have a Fourth of July this year. Parade chairpersons, John Mitchell and Irma Armenta, have announced that longtime Creek residents, Penny and Bob Wells, will share the duties.
We have this to share from Kayelen Rolfe about her mother, “Nancy Corley has moved from her beloved cabin on Columbine to her new cozy retreat in the sky. We will all miss the put-together, pretty white-haired lady who loved her family well and enjoyed driving around the community in her golf cart with Sofi on her lap. The Corley Complex on Columbine will not be the same without her. A Celebration of Life will be held in or near Christopher Creek, hopefully in October.”
The Firebelles’ Garage Sale, postponed from last weekend, will be rescheduled for July 11. It’s open, it’s closed, it’s open ... and that’s another week in the Creek.