Fire support team arrives in Kingman

A mini-city has sprouted at the Mohave County fairgrounds in support of local and out-of-state firefighters battling two blazes in the Hualapai Mountains.

Hotshot crews of National Park Service, U.S.

Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management firefighters have arrived in Kingman, Dixie Dies, incident team spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

The 420-acre Wild Cow fire, started by dry lightning Saturday night, came within a mile of the Pine Lake community before weather and fire crews intervened.

As of Tuesday, the fire was 50 percent contained and by the end of the day is expected to be contained.

Voluntary evacuation notices were lifted.

The Dean Peak fire, north of Pine Lake, burned about 345 acres but is not considered a threat to homes.

Priority has been shifted to that fire.

Two shifts of firefighters and their support team work up to 16 hours to keep the two fires in check.

Battle plans are drawn, and firefighters are fed, briefed and sent to the line.

To fight the Dean Peak fire, hotshot crews had to walk about three miles over rugged terrain and thick brush, Dies said.

Planes and helicopters have dropped water or chemicals on the larger and more serious Wild Cow fire.

The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team from Montana set up shop at the fairgrounds to provide medical, food, logistics and even financial support to firefighters, Dies said.

The team was sent to fight the Oracle fire near Tucson when weather all but extinguished that fire.

The team was diverted to Kingman, where it is expected to stay until Thursday.

A caterer feeds the small army of support personal and firefighters.

Local high school students helped fix bagged lunches for the fire crews.

Meals for vegetarians as well as meat-eaters are made and have to be packed with calories and proteins for firefighters working on the line.

Gallons of bottled water are stacked everywhere, Dies said.

Portable showers built into a silver tractor trailer and portable toilets were also brought in.

Sometimes, high schools provide bathing facilities, Dies said.

Detailed topographic maps dot the walls of the fairgrounds' main building so managers can pinpoint where a fire is and crews should be.

People sit at tables working on computers or talking on phones.

A medical team is on hand.

The team even has its own meteorologist.

Temperature, humidity and wind all play a role in firefighting.

"Weather prediction for us is critical," Dies said.

At one table, the radio command center, communication between fire crews and air support is vital.

"If we don't have radio contact on the line, then we don't go up to the line," Dies said.

Firefighters from Pine Lake, Pinion Pine, Kingman, Hualapai Valley and Golden Valley fire departments have joined state and federal crews to battle the blaze.

Another team coordinates with local firefighters in evacuation of homes.

Fuel reduction around homes is also important, according to Kevin Boness, district forester for the Arizona State Land Department.

Homeowners can reduce fire danger by keeping brush away from homes, inserting fire arrestors on chimneys and installing fireproof roof shingles instead of wooden shake shingles, he said.

Boness said about 99 percent of all local fire departments in the state coordinate with his department.