Kingman audience hears good news at Dean Park Fire meeting: No injuries, no structures damaged
In this photo taken by Mohave Electric Cooperative employee Fred Fischer, a DC-10 air tanker dropping fire retardant flies over the co-op's lines at the Dean Peak Fire. (Courtesy)
7/4/2013 6:01:00 AM
By Doug McMurdo
KINGMAN - More than 350 people attended a community meeting Wednesday night to hear an update on the Dean Peak Fire.
"No structures have burned and nobody's been injured," said Gary Watson, chairman of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, a comment that generated applause from an audience that voiced its appreciation of the firefighting efforts made to date.
About 500 firefighters from around the West work 16-hour days, aided by helicopters, bulldozers, several engines and water tenders.
The community of Kingman is in "no danger whatsoever" of the fire reaching the city, said Kevin Bailey, the public information officer for the Northern Arizona Incident Management Team.
More than 25 agencies from local, state and the federal government are involved in battling the blaze, which had burned roughly seven square miles of the Hualapai Mountains east of Kingman as of Wednesday.
Buck Wickham, the operations section chief for the Northern Arizona Incident Management Team, said the fire that started Saturday after a lightning strike has zero containment, but that doesn't mean the blaze is completely out of control.
Strong, erratic monsoon winds and thick, dry vegetation have hampered efforts to fight the blaze.
Firefighters have used infrared imaging taken from an airplane at night, which shows the scope of the fire and its intensity.
Wickham said firefighters are able to see where the fire is burning and in which direction its headed, which allows them to establish "trigger points" that call for evacuations.
"It's like drawing a line in the sand," he said.
The southeastern portion of the fire is "looking good," he said, and firefighters are building firebreaks. They can't fight the fire on the line due to extremely rugged terrain.
"Our primary objective is public and firefighter safety," he said.
While firefighters are focused on providing shelter protection, Wickham said previous fire breaks - areas of the forest that have been thinned out to help slow down or stop a fire - were built by the Bureau of Land Management several years ago around the Pinion Pines and Pine Lakes subdivisions.
That work, he said, probably saved a few structures and also allowed firefighters to get a foothold.
"We're happy to see people taking the time to put in fire breaks," he said.
Both subdivisions are relatively safe from the fire, thanks in part to burnout operations crews conducted late Tuesday night, he said.
The wildcard is the monsoon season.
"The winds are really a threat," he said. "They can blow from any direction and tonight we're looking for an easterly wind."
OVERWHELMED BY DONATIONS
What they're not looking for is more donations from a community that has overwhelmed them with its generosity.
Water, Gatorade, Powerade, power bars and hundreds of meals and other food, a truckload of ice and much more have been donated.
"The community has been very gracious with their donations," he said. "We've gotten so much we don't know what to do with it all.
"I want to ask you a favor, look up the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. Donate to them."
Bales said the foundation assists the families of fallen and injured firefighters, such as the 19 men who lost their lives Sunday night fighting the Yarnell Hill fire near Prescott.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
In answer to several questions from members of the audience:
Two hotshot crews are mopping up around Pinion Pines, which was saved from the fire during a "crucial" Tuesday night. A small threat still exists.
The roughly 200 families - some homeowners opted to stay on the mountain - that have evacuated might be able to return home in a day or two. While the fire might not be burning near the subdivisions, crews continue to look for hot spots to ensure it doesn't reignite.
The vegetation is extremely dry and the fire could flare up at any time.
Mohave Electric Cooperative de-energized power to the subdivisions off and on throughout Wednesday. The power is periodically turned back on so refrigerators can run and food doesn't spoil.
Firebreaks have been cut around power lines.
Part of the work firefighters will perform as the fire abates is improvements and extensions to fire breaks, which will mitigate the threat in future fires.
It takes time to get an air tanker to a fire. These are national resources and the competition to get them is intense.
Bottom line: Wherever a wildfire is threatening lives and property the most is very likely to get an air tanker.
It should be noted that planes have been on the Dean Peak Fire and the work they've done has helped protect residences.
There are wildfires currently burning in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
Fire updates are issued each morning and evening at approximately 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. They don't provide them more often because that would involve guessing.
For the most up-to-date information, log on to the Miner website at www.kingmandailyminer.com, Facebook at Dean Peak Fire, Twitter at @deanpeakfire or at www.inciweb.org.