Uncontrolled Arizona Wildfire now 4th Largest in State History

Uncontrolled Arizona Wildfire now 4th Largest in State History

03 June 2011

published by www.suite101.com

USA — Firefighters lost control of the Horseshoe Two wildfire when it jumped containment lines and forced more evacuations.

In a matter of hours, southern Arizona’s Horseshoe Two wildfire went from 80,500 acres and 75 percent contained, to 86,140 acres and only 50 percent contained on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

In a matter of days, the wildfire has grown from being Arizona’s 6th largest in state history, to now ranked 4th largest, according to statistics from the Southwest Coordination Center.

The Horseshoe Two fire is also now historically the 7th largest for the entire Arizona – New Mexico southwest wildfire region.

High Winds Hindering Firefighters

A “Red Flag” warning for high winds on Thursday limited aerial and ground firefighting operations in the rugged, steep canyons of the Chiricahua Mountains unit of the Coronado National Forest, 95 miles southeast of Tucson. The 35 mph winds wiped through the area where temperatures were in the low 90 degree range with only 7 percent humidity. As a result, firefighters were not able to control a 430-acre “slop over” of the fire into the northwest perimeter where it continues to grow, according to the latest InciWeb incident reports.

Those ongoing wind conditions and high flames also caused the Horseshoe Two Fire to jump across the Rock Creek Canyon area and move northeast. While hand crews are actively working to suppress that fire, some firefighters were forced to disengage from the fire line in the Rustler Park area for safety reasons.

Another Red Flag wind warning is forecast for Friday from noon until 8:00 p.m.

The Cochise County Sheriff’s office issued a mandatory evacuation order for the tiny communities of Paradise and East Whitetail Canyon, and the Chiricahua National Monument was closed to the public as of 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.

This is the second evacuation for Paradise. The Cochise County Sheriff’s office had issued a precautionary evacuation order for Paradise and the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station on May 20, 2011. That evacuation order was lifted just before Memorial Day on Friday, May 27, 2001.
Spreading Blaze Breaking Records

The Horseshoe Two fire started on Monday, May 8, 2011, and by May 18th it became the largest recorded fire in Chiricahua Mountain history, surpassing the 1994 Rattlesnake Fire, which burned 27,500 acres of wilderness in the same area.

The spike in the number of acres burned, up from 64,290 acres on late Sunday, May 29, 2011, increased the Horseshoe Two fire from the 6th largest in Arizona history to the 5th largest by Wednesday afternoon.

Now the Horseshoe Two wildfire has surpassed the June 17, 2003, Aspen fire that burned 84,750 acres. That wildfire destroyed 340 homes and businesses in the mountain resort town of Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest one-hour north of Tucson.

The estimated containment date for the Horseshoe Two fire is Wednesday, June 22, 2011. But on Thursday, May 18, 2011, fire officials told residents at a community meeting in Rodeo, N.M., not to expect it to stop burning until the annual monsoon rain arrives in July.

But there might be more surprises.

The “Southwest Area 7-Day Fire Potential Outlook,” issued by the National Interagency Fire Center Thursday, predicts a “high risk for significant fire activity” resulting from “a combination of wind/dryness/instability intermixed with dry lightning potential.” According to NIFC, this could “bring lightning west to near the Arizona-New Mexico border this weekend, followed by windy, dry conditions sweeping east across the area early next week.”

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