22 Jun 2010, 11:54am
Monkeywrenching forests The 2010 Fire Season
by admin

Return Fire in Flagstaff

The Schultz Fire was reported this morning to be 10,000 acres [here]. Approximately 1,000 residences in North Flagstaff are threatened. Evacuations are occurring. Over 800 firefighting personnel are engaged along with eight airtankers.

Schultz Fire as of 06/22/2010 at 4 a.m. Map courtesy GEOMAC Wildfire Viewer [here].

The fire was ignited two days ago by a campfire in the Schultz Pass vicinity. It quickly burned to the top of of Schultz Peak and then headed northeast toward subdivisions north of the city.

It is not the first fire to burn through the area. In 1977 the Radio Fire burned 5,000 acres on Mt Elden, the legacy of which is still visible [here]. In 1996 the Hochderffer and Horseshoe Fires north of the San Francisco Peaks burned a total of 25,000 acres.

The extreme fuel conditions directly upwind from Flagstaff have not gone unnoticed:

Fire heads toward Peaks; Inner Basin threatened

by CYNDY COLE, AZ Daily Sun, June 21, 2023 [here]

The wildfire now burning northeast of Pass is larger in area than the whole base of Mount Elden. And it could overrun Lockett Meadow at the foot of the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks, say fire officials, who plan to spend at least a week fighting it.

If it goes there, fighting it will likely be tough going, with dense trees, little physical access for heavy equipment and steep terrain, said the individual in charge of firefighting operations.

This fire, when finished burning, will very likely be among the five largest in Flagstaff’s recorded history. It sits partially in an area where forest thinning was planned but had not yet commenced.

The fire had charred 10,000 acres by Monday evening and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residences along the western side of the Highway 89 corridor. …

The topography of Schultz Pass tends to exacerbate these winds, acting like a chimney, and making it a past priority for thinning.

Firefighters and some people living in Timberline have long seen the pass as a problem area, and it received some renewed attention during the 1996 fire season, when the Hochderffer and Horseshoe fires north of the San Francisco Peaks burned a total of 25,000 acres.

“This is a fire that we’ve talked about for 30 years,” Summit Fire Chief Don Howard told an audience of the public gathered at Coconino High School on Monday night. “We knew it would happen — we always hoped it wouldn’t happen — due to this pass’ ability to push wind.”

After 25 years of constant pressure from Dr. W. Wallace Covington of Northern Arizona University, his Ecological Restoration Institute [here], and a community group [here], a total of 193 acres were thinned in the area.

The Schultz Fire could easily burn 50,000 acres before it is controlled.

Who’s fault is that? Certainly not Dr. Covington’s. He could not have done more to warn the city and to provide solutions.

The fault lies with the people who have fought against fuel treatments and restoration for decades, groups such as the Sierra Club, Earth First!, the Grand Canyon Trust, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Environmental Fund for Arizona, The Conservation System Alliance and other organizations with various shifting names and websites.

Will the anti-restoration groups be held accountable? Not likely.

A wise and knowledgeable friend writes, “We’ve been here before. Learn nothing, forget nothing. … It may be news, but it’s nothing new.”

And so it goes. Fire returns to Flagstaff, as it does so often in so many locales. Panic fills hearts. People evacuate. Umpteen $millions are spent on dangerous and expensive measures to save homes and lives. Damages exceed the fire suppression outlays by 10, 20, even 50 to 1.

We could do better. We could use sensitive and scientific restoration forestry to save homes, lives, watersheds, and landscapes. Unfortunately there is a (largely political) movement that fights against and sabotages restoration efforts, that promotes catastrophic holocaust, that wishes to Burn Baby Burn no matter how tragic and destructive the outcomes.

If responsible people with common sense do not insist on appropriate land stewardship, the crazies will prevail, and disasters will continue to visit our communities.

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