Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, Sept. 18

Mother Nature thins the forests her own way once again

The Cherry Fire when it was still a prescribed burn. Photo by Les Stukenberg - Prescott Daily Courier

The Mormon fire is burning near Flagstaff and has burned over 2,600 acres. It was also a lightning-caused fire and is fully contained. Three dozen firefighters are on scene to keep the fire at containment.

The Picacho Fire is burning southwest of Casa Grande and has taken over 875 acres. It was also lightning sparked, but is fully contained.

The Punkin Fire, which is north of Roosevelt, has burned over 3,000 acres. It started due to lightning and fire crews are currently working to fully contain the blaze.

The largest fire in the nation currently is the Aspen Fire, burning on the Catalina Mountains north-east of Tucson. It has scorched over 7,500 acres and as of Saturday evening was 5 percent contained. The fire destroyed over 250 homes in the Summerhaven subdivision.

The fire also swept over television and radio towers on Mount Lemmon and still threatens the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, said fire officials.

The blaze, according to the fire’s Incident Commander Mr. Humphrey, is burning the way Mother Nature wants it to burn. Humphrey said it might take two to three weeks before fire fighters can get the blaze contained. He said that current weather conditions are working against them in this process.

He also said it has been really hard to get other resources up into the fire due to it burning so deep in the mountain.

Humphrey explained there are currently 900 firefighters working on the blaze and expected the number of man power to exceed 1000 within a few days.

Arizona’s Governor, Janet Napalitano, spoke with President Bush and declared Arizona a disaster area, which will bring in federal funding to help pay for the cost of battling the blaze.

Former Rodeo-Chediski Fire Commander Jim Paxon said, “Mother Nature is doing what she wants to.” He said he felt the fire would burn until it ran out of fuel. He added the Aspen Fire is a hard one for firefighters to battle because the current hot, windy and dry weather conditions will remain until monsoon rains began to fall.

Lee Born Meteorologists for KNAZ Channel 2 in Flagstaff said there is no sign of change in the weather for at least seven days. He also reported heavy winds would continue throughout the week and monsoon rains could begin as late as July 24th.

Public Affairs Officer Bob Dyson said the forests are still in an unhealthy condition due to years of drought and Bark Beetle infestation.

He added the forest service is setting restrictions within the forest to stop forests fires from beginning.

Dyson explained the forest service is harvesting 11,000 acres of trees as well as debris from the forest floor. He said there would be no prescribed burns in the Apache-Sitgreaves until the fire season is over.

He concluded the forest has a couple of engine crews and law enforcement officers who are constantly looking for new fires.

Winslow’s own Douglas Dewitt, a former resident of 3’C Ranch outside of Oracle, said “the forests up in the Summerhaven area have been in poor condition for years due to mismanagement.”

He went on to say the forest is like a garden, when you plant your garden you need to pull out the weeds or the weeds take over. “The forests need to be managed over and over and not be left over to mother nature to pull the weeds”.

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