Jun 152011

By Linda Kor–

Firefighters of the massive Wallow fire have begun to gain the upper hand on portions of the blaze, with 10 percent containment as of Monday. Residents of Eagar and Springerville were finally allowed to return to their homes, although the air quality remains poor and residents with health issues are encouraged to stay away from the area if possible.

The fire had destroyed 452,155 acres as of Sunday, nearly as much as the massive Rodeo-Chediski fire of 2002, which was the largest fire in Arizona history, destroying 468,638 acres of land in east-central Arizona.

According to reports, there have been 29 residences and four commercial properties lost to the blaze. There are more than 4,000 personnel battling the blaze, which has crossed into New Mexico, keeping residents of Luna from their homes. To date there have been seven injuries reported due to the fire, but no information has been provided as to the severity of those injuries.

Hot Shot crews have come from across the country to help battle this blaze, working long days in tremendous heat. In addition, a DC-10 fire tanker joined the fight, with the capacity to carry 12,000 gallons of fire retardant per load. The tanker flies out of Tucson and can be loaded and ready for take-off within 20 minutes. The line of retardant the DC-10 can lay is as wide as a football field and 1.5 miles long.

On Monday crews were beginning mop-up and hazard tree removal in the Alpine, Nutrioso, and Tal Wi Wi areas, as well as in the South Fork area following a burnout operation conducted earlier in the week. Burnout operations also were completed along Forest Road 220 south to US 180, northwest of Luna. On the east side of the fire, efforts by firefighters to burn out remaining fuels between the containment lines and the fire have been successful. Firefighters completed a burnout operation in the Turkey Creek drainage, and are building a containment line to the intersection of Highway 281 and the Blue River. Line construction is continuing along the Blue River. Containment lines in the vicinity of Greer are being widened, and on the western and southern side of the fire, firefighters made good progress widening and holding existing control lines, and are beginning mop-up in areas north of the Black River. Fire lines immediately south of the Black River are holding and crews are constructing approximately 10 miles of indirect line along the fire’s south end.

Authorities are warning people to be cautious if they have been contacted with unsolicited e-mails asking for donations to help the victims of this fire. This may be a scam operation. If you would like to donate funds to help those in need at this time, organizations such as the Humane Society at azhumane.org and the Arizona Ecumenical Council’s Wallow Fire Fund at aecunity.net are accepting donations.

Photo courtesy of the Navajo County Sheriffs Office

The Wallow fire, which has consumed more than 452,155 acres and was at 10 percent containment as of Monday, has destroyed woodlands throughout northeastern Arizona and is now crossing over into New Mexico.

Photo courtesy of the Navajo County Sheriffs Office

A DC-10 flying out of Tucson lays down a massive plume of fire retardant in an effort to contain the Wallow fire.