Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sunflower Fire grows to 12,000 acres overnight

Sunflower Fire Update
May 16, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Acres:  12,000                                         
Start date:  May 12, 2012
Cause:  Under Investigation               
Location:  21 miles south of Payson
Containment: 7 percent                       
Fuels:  Grass, chaparral, pinyon pine
Terrain:  Steep, rugged                        
Resources:  12 crews, 16 engines, 2 dozers, 2 water tenders
Total personnel: 403                            
Available air support:  8 helicopters, 6 air tankers

Summary:  Strong winds, shifting from the east to the south greatly influenced the Sunflower Fire yesterday.  As anticipated, the fire became very active during the afternoon with as the fire advanced to the north, northwest and west.  Several dense pockets of fuel in the fire’s interior burned intensely resulting in three large plumes of smoke.  In spite of this, the fire remained within established containment lines.

Actions taken by firefighters on the Sunflower Fire Monday significantly affected the results of suppression efforts Tuesday.  When winds shifted Monday, blowing from the northeast, the decision was made to discontinue line preparation along Forest Road 201 and initiate firing operations, taking advantage of the wind to push the burn through the ground fuels into the interior of the fire.  This created a wide black line along the perimeter.  When the expected wind shift to a south wind occurred yesterday, the fire was prevented from reaching the road.  Had these actions not been taken, there is a substantial possibility that the fire would have crossed the road, leaving firefighters no alternative but to move back to State Route 87.  With no roads available between FR201 and SR 87, it would have been unsafe to place firefighters in between.  The highway and the power lines would have been compromised.
Pushed by the same wind that helped with the black line operation on Monday, the fire moved rapidly to the southwest.  It burned up to the seventeen year old fire scar of the Basin Fire and stopped at that point.  This same influence may be expected when the Sunflower Fire reaches the scar of the eight year old Willow Fire.  The thinner fuels in the fire scars reduces the fire intensity and slows the growth of the fire.

In any communities affected by smoke, actions may need to be taken to mitigate the conditions.  Visibility is an excellent measure of air quality.  If visibility is ten miles or more, the air quality is good.  Visibility of six to nine miles indicates moderate air quality.  Three to five miles of visibility indicates conditions unhealthy for sensitive groups.  One and a half to two and a half miles, the air quality is unhealthy.  One to one and a quarter miles indicates the air quality is very unhealthy.  If visibility due to smoke is less than a mile, the air quality is hazardous.  Smoke sensitive persons in affected areas may need to take action to mitigate the conditions.  Remaining indoors, using air conditioning or temporarily moving to an unaffected area may be necessary.

For more smoke information and air quality forecasts, please visit the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality website at

Bull Flat Fire Update
May 15, 2012, 10 p.m.

Fire Facts
Date started: May 10, 2012
Number of personnel: 309
Location: Fort Apache Agency and Tonto NF
Equipment: 7 engines, 2 dozers, 2 water tenders
Cause: believed to be lightning, under investigation
Aircraft: 1 light and 1 heavy helicopter
Size: 1,900 acres

Percent contained: 15
Estimated containment date: May 25, 2012
Injuries to date: 0
Estimated cost to date: $900,000
Property threatened: none

Fire Activity: The increase in acres burned reflects that the fire reached containment lines today established by firefighters on the west side of the Bull Flat Fire. Firefighters caught one spot fire on the north side of the fire’s perimeter.

There is a decrease in estimated containment because more intensive mop-up needs to be completed along firelines where heat is being held in stump holes and large, dead fuels that could produce flying embers during wind events.

On Wednesday, crews will focus on extinguishing hot spots along the fire’s perimeter and construct containment line on the northeast corner of the fire in preparation for a burnout that will help to secure that portion of the line.

Advisories: Residents and visitors in the Heber-Overgaard area may experience drift smoke from the Bull Flat Fire. The fire is southwest of these communities and afternoon winds are expected to push smoke in a northeasterly direction. Those with respiratory challenges should take precautions. Smoke also settles in cool temperatures and may reduce visibility for  motorists driving during nighttime hours.

General Information: The Incident Command Post for the Eastern Arizona Incident Management Team is located three miles south of Highway 260 on Forest Road 512 AKA the Young Road. The fire is currently burning on lands administered by the Fort Apache Agency and the Pleasant Valley Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest.
Updates are also available by calling the 593 Public Information Line at 928-333-3412.

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