Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Monument Fire- Aftermath Sierra Vista

I returned to Sierra Vista to see the aftermath of the Monument Fire that has burned for more than a week in that community. It was even more unbelievable than I had could have imagined.
Some homes and businesses were lost while others completely surrounded by fire were spared.

As far as the eye can see the landscape is blackened giving it another world look right out of a science fiction novel. Entire mountains were consumed by flames, thousands of acres charred, that for the moment look lifeless and as if nothing has survived. Not too long ago I studied the effects of the 2003 Aspen Fire on Mt Lemmon and I know that this is not true and that the area will recover over time.

This is the area where the fire broke across fire containment lines and crossed highway 92 on Sunday when the winds were reaching 50 to 60 mph. This is an appropriate place to commend the fire and emergency crews who did an incredible job under extremely harsh conditions. High winds, high temperatures, dry conditions, low humidity and rough terrain all combined to make this an extremely difficult fire and in my opinion it could have been much,much worse were it not for the hard work and dedication of crews from all over.

Several businesses in the path of the fire were completely destroyed. Evacuations must have come fast as lots of vehicles and other things were abandoned to the whims of the flames. Some burned to the ground while others next door were unscathed.

Everything burned except this house for some reason. Truly amazing.

Our Lady of the Sierras was partially destroyed but the huge celtic cross was spared.

Another home spared while all around everything else burned.

There is a mop up crew on the mountain and if you enlarge the photo above you might be able to see the dozen or so firefighters doing their job.

Contrast between areas that burned and those that did not.

Flame retardant dropped from planes to stop advancing flames.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monument Fire Rages 6/19/11

Urgent Notice! Latest Evacuation Information

With winds forecast at more than 50 miles per hours I expected that the situation in Sierra Vista to worsen as the day went on and sadly I was right. As we entered the city limits smoke was billowing from Miller Canyon and traveling as far as the eye could see.

Once again I was unable to access the area beyond Ramsey Road but I certainly understand why officials had the area closed off to the public and I do not want to be a problem for firefighters who obviously have their hands full with today's developments.

With the direction of the high winds it was only a matter of time that the fire would move out of the canyon and threaten populated areas and as of this afternoon new mandatory evacuations have been called for as it is reported that the fire has crossed highway 92 and entered the grasslands that are so very dry.

Information on the evacuation order can be found here at:

As I took this photo I overheard several residents by the side of the road talking about the pending evacuation order. Behind me are neighborhoods that are threatened and it looks like some have already left the area.

Equipment continues to arrive and the firefighting crew has grown to more than a thousand personnel.

The evacuation information leads me to believe that San Pedro Wildlife Conservation Area could be effected in the next couple of days as this flare up shows.

Planes fighting the fire apparently have been grounded due to the high winds but were to be deployed in the afternoon despite the conditions. I caught this one returning to base for reloading.

The Monument Fire- Sierra Vista Arizona 6/19/11

We are preparing to travel to Sierra Vista this morning and according to the weather report winds will reach 50 miles per hour this afternoon. I feel extremely bad for those people who have lost their homes and I am also concerned about the effects on local wildlife. Here is a report on today's weather.

50 mph winds possible near Monument Fire Sunday
06/18/2011 06:42 PM
TUCSON - The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for Cochise, Graham & Greenlee Counties. This will be in effect Sunday from 12 PM until 7 PM.
A Red Flag Warning will also be in effect Sunday, from 10 AM until 8 PM for all of southern Arizona.
News 4 Meteorologist Jeff Beamish predicts west-southwest winds up to 50 MPH Sunday near the Monument Fire. Gusty winds combined with low relative humidity & dry fuels will lead to an extreme fire danger.
For that reason, Sunday's Wildfire Index has been set at its highest level, which is a 10.
For a complete look at Jeff's True View 4 extended forecast, visit

I'm not sure what I will encounter today but whatever it is I will report it here tonight. I am hoping for the best but with winds this fierce I am concerned for the people in the area as well as the birds, animals, trees in and around San Pedro.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Monument Fire- Sierra Vista Arizona 6/18/11

I left the house this morning at 2:45 A.M. to head to Sierra Vista to check out the Monument Fire. I timed my journey so that I would arrive before daylight hoping that I could see areas where there were flames visible. With the winds calm and the temperatures around 72 degrees there was little apparent activity that I cold see as I headed south on route 90 towards Sierra Vista.

I was able to smell smoke before I spotted the flames on the side of the mountain near Ramsey Canyon. Traveling up and down multiple streets and highways I was unable to get into the evacuated areas due to manned road blocks and barricaded side streets.

These pictures are photos that I took at San Pedro Conservation Area and are included here to show just how much fuel is available and how dry it is here and in most areas of Southern Arizona. I can't remember when the last time we had a significant rain and everywhere I travel in Southern Arizona it is extremely dry.

It is easy to see how a ten foot high wall of flames more than a thousand feet wide driven by high winds could move at a high rate of speed across the desert destroying homes under these conditions.

While I was hiking in San Pedro I could see smoke from fires that had quieted down overnight but by 8 A.M. the winds were starting to pick up which means fire crews may once again have their hands full.

Fires that I could see were not very far from homes but access to the area was closed and I didn't see much evidence of smoke at lower elevations but I'm sure later in the day things heated up.

Route 92 South was closed as was Ramsey Road east. All side streets headed south off Ramsey were blockaded.

From my vantage point I was able to watch a steady stream of wildfire crews, sheriff's vehicles, heavy equipment and emergency vehicles entering the area.

There are some really good photographs of the fire at:

Due to large amounts of particulate in the air the sunrise was spectacular and I was happy to get a few good photos.

As the wind came up I could see that new areas were flaring up on the mountain and I was wondering if this area would soon be visited by one of the five helicopters fighting this enormous blaze.

Tomorrow I will return to Sierra Vista later in the day to see what the expected high winds do to the area.