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Quick response tames Aerostat Fire. Firefighters making sure blaze has been extinguished
Sierra Vista Herald ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 04/27/2014 10:53:05 AM PDT by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — A fire, which apparently began in a picnic area in the post’s Lower Garden Canyon, consumed 75 acres but as of 7 p.m. Saturday the blaze was well underway of being extinguished, post and U.S. Forest Service officials said.

“We’re fairly certain it was human-caused,” said the post’s director of Emergency Services Dan Ortega, noting there were people picnicking in the area.

However the exact cause of the blaze is under investigation, he emphasized.

While it is being called the Aerostat Fire, the site of the blaze is not close to the special function on the post which monitors air traffic coming in from Mexico for possible drug smuggling. Several years ago, another fire, which also began in Lower Garden Canyon, blackened several hundred acres. That fire did head toward the aerostat site, which created the possibility of evacuating residential areas off the post, heightened even more so because the fire also reached the limits of the fort’s property along Buffalo Soldier Trail.

Saturday’s fire prompted pe-evacuation notices, with the Cochise County Sheriffs Office doing them in the Choctaw area. Sierra Vista officials began doing the same for all residents living west of Cherokee Avenue.

The city notices extended to those living as far north as Buffalo Soldier Trail and to those living as far south as Ramsey Canyon Road.

“We’re asking them to have a plan in case we call for evacuations,” said Sgt. Sean Brownson of the Sierra Vista Police Department.

Included in the pre-evacuation notice were those living in The Reserve neighborhood, off of Canyon de Flores, west of Highway 92.

Residents within these areas were asked that they have essential items collected and packed in the event they are asked to evacuate.

“We’d want them to be able to load up a vehicle and go within five, 10 minutes if an evacuation order were to occur,” Brownson said.

Because of the Monument Fire in 2011, which consumed more than 30,00 acres in the Huachuca Mountains, and destroyed or damaged a number of homes, businesses and outbuildings, local officials have prepared evacuation procedures as part of a response plan in the event a fire can spill over into residential areas. This plan was recently used to notify Ramsey Canyon area residents of a possible evacuation — which ultimately was not required — during the Brown Fire in the Huachuca Mountains. That fire started in the Upper Garden Canyon area, also on post property. It too was human-caused.

Ortega said an initial report of one of the unoccupied training areas on the fort, Site Uniform, had been damaged by the blaze, but it was later determined that did not happen, nor was there any damage to a village which was built near the site to replicate similar areas in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the post’s intelligence training programs.

The fire did jump the road and headed towards Site Papa, another training area which also was unoccupied and was not damaged.

Electricity to the area was shut off by Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative as a way to eliminate other potential fire ignition sources, Ortega said.

The rapid response to the fire — the initial call came in at 3:28 p.m. Saturday — was helped by the fact a Forest Service patrol was in the area, something that is usual during wildfire season.

Kendal Wilson, the operations officer for the Sierra Vista Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest, said the patrol immediately went into action while calling for backup.

Ortega said the Forest Service’s incident commander, Shane Hall, should be credited for ensuring the rapid response once the fire was detected.

The quick response of additional assets included fort, Forest Service and civilian firefighters, including from the Fry, Palominas and Sierra Vista fire departments, Ortega said.

Additionally, other assets included the Northeast Fire Department from Tucson, as well as a number of other Forest Service assets, to include two Hot Shot crews and other ground personnel, he said.

As Wilson talked about the response and fire suppression a Forest Service ground crew was cleaning up a burned area of grass and shrubs, looking for and putting out hot spots.

Of concern to him is an area along a stream bed of junipers and cottonwoods.

Wildfires can burn underground using the root systems of trees and can pop up away from the initial blaze site, and so Saturday night into Sunday morning was to be spent looking for hot spots and putting them out, Wilson said.

Although winds ranged from 20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph, early spotting and response helped the firefighters, both Ortega and Wilson said.

The post’s emergency services director said all canyons on the fort are now closed to the public and will remain so until further notice.

Wilson said, “We expect to get it wrapped up by Sunday.” However, Ortega said intelligence training at the two sites in Lower Garden Canyon is expected to resume Monday.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Arizona
KEYWORDS: aerostat; fire; fthuachuca

1 posted on 04/27/2014 10:53:05 AM PDT by SandRat
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To: SandRat

Have the invaders been busy setting fires down there along the border?

2 posted on 04/27/2014 10:54:20 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: SandRat

I wonder if the BLM deployed its QRF to confront ANY locals out there who have cattle or other tangible property out there because the government lost one of its surveillance assets???

3 posted on 04/27/2014 10:58:39 AM PDT by stevie_d_64 (It's not the color of one's skin that offends's how thin it is.)
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To: SandRat

Every year in fire season in the western US, I think of a California company that had a brilliant idea: a firefighting airship. Unfortunately, they went out of business before they could build a prototype.

This would not replaced fixed wing firefighting aircraft, nor firefighting helicopters, but would be very complementary to them, and do much to put out fires.

Airships can carry enormous cargoes, in this case a lot of water. And because they can maintain their position, they do not have to drop it all at once. Instead they can “rain” with heavy droplets, either on a fire, or in the path of the fire, to significantly slow its spread.

An airship could even descend a wire guided fire hose to hit particular hotspots.

And something even that company did not envisage is that the airship could also descend a wide and thin hose to deploy high expansion foam, as is done to extinguish aircraft runway fires. So, for example, if a building was in the path of the fire, they could cover it with foam to protect it.

4 posted on 04/27/2014 2:26:09 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (WoT News:
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