A wind-whipped wildfire ignited the afternoon of May 6 just north of the Prescott airport and Ruger Road on the east side of Highway 89.
Chino Valley Fire District Public Information Officer Rob Zazueta said the fire was pushed very rapidly with strong winds through the dry grass fuels. The total area burned was more than 300 acres, but he said the exact perimeter will be determined during the investigation of the fire.
Zazueta reported that the Chino crew responded rapidly to the scene and were able to call for assistance from several agencies in the tri-city area, including the U.S. Forest Service.
He said the multi-agency response was the key component of the operations, and because of the close working relationships and automatic aid agreements, the tactics and strategies were extremely effective.
Crews remained on scene for four hours while State Land-assigned engines from surrounding areas arrived to relieve the crews and patrol the fire line for the night.
CVFD would like to remind the general public of Stage I fire restrictions and ask that extreme caution is taken during the high wind warnings and during this dry time of year.
The fire started in grasslands and quickly spread to 100 acres shortly after firefighters began battling it around 4:05 p.m., spokesman Wade Ward said.
By 5:50 p.m. firefighters reported halting the fire's progress to the north and east, despite south-southwest winds of 20-25 mph that were gusting as high as 40 mph. A wind advisory was in effect.
"It is boxed in," Ward said shortly before 6 p.m.
"It only takes a spark, so people need to be extra careful," Ward warned. "We're lucky that Chino Valley happened to be driving by (the fire), and we had lots of resources available."
It was dubbed the Iron fire. It ignited not far east of Highway 89 at mile marker 321, near construction crews working on a highway widening project. The highway remained open to traffic.
It was likely human-caused because no lightning struck the area and Ward heard no reports of electricity lines falling.
A slightly elevated humidity of 20-25 percent and relatively low temperatures in the low 60s may have aided firefighters.
Central Yavapai Fire District, Prescott, Prescott National Forest and Arizona State Forestry Division firefighters also helped put out the blaze. The fire may have burned into more than one of their jurisdictions.
Air resources were called off when fire managers on the ground determined they weren't needed, Ward said. A small helicopter currently was stationed at the Prescott National Forest's Prescott Fire Center, spokesperson Debbie Maneely said.
Stage 1 fire-use restrictions went into effect on April 18, tying the record with 2002 for the earliest annual restrictions on the Prescott National Forest and local fire agencies. The restrictions usually start about a month later.
For links to local fire agencies and details about rural Yavapai County fire-use restrictions, go online to regionalinfo-alert.org.
Other fire restrictions are in effect on federal, state and local lands throughout the Southwest, too.
To keep track of state and federal fire restrictions, go online to firerestrictions.us/az or call 877-864-6985.
The Daily Courier reporter Joanna Dodder contributed to this story.
Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Article comment by:
It's easy enough to see where the fire started, and given the direction of the winds that day, it's pretty obvious that the road construction crews were a little careless with either a cutting torch or welding something, or possibly, even one of them smoke, and a hot ash blew off. It'd be pretty hard to claim anything else started it since it started practically under their feet.