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Arizona Tries to Put out the Fire

Aired June 21, 2002 - 14:05   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Out west, more specifically in Arizona, the concern is wildfires burning out of control. We want to take you there now, where a press conference is under way involving investigators, as to how they're able to contain these burning fires.

JIM PAXON, SHOW LOW FIRE DEPARTMENT: ... the fire that's going on. He'll be back down by 3:00 p.m.. The agreement with KVOA is the entire portion of that video, the entire cassette will be made available for pool footage. If he does have the opportunity to interview some firefighters, that will also be accommodated. So by 3:00 p.m. he should be back here and we'll have some things for you. That took a lot of negotiation and that's as good as I can get right now. So I hope that will also meet your needs.


PAXON: KVOA has got a truck here. They can uplink and you can access it on whatever magic you all use. That's beyond me. I'm a humble district ranger and an information officer.

QUESTION: Is there going to be any still photography done?

PAXON: There's still photography out now. That's the "Arizona Republic," and their stills will also be made available. They should -- I don't know that they're going to get back in by 3:00 p.m., though. They're out with a safety officer and they may not get back in until probably close to 5:00 p.m.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how will you get them?

PAXON: I think he's shooting digital, but I'll check and see.


PAXON: Well, the fire did a lot of things yesterday. We had a helicopter up and he was in the smoke, and he's a local. It's George Leach (ph). He's the assistant fire management officer on Fort Apache. When he mapped this thing from the air through the smoke, he said 85,000 acres.

I don't have a current map up here because they're still being generated. But we had the infrared flight at 30,000 feet and it said 120,000 acres. That is not growth last night. There was a little growth last night, but mainly that's the difference between being 200 feet off the deck in the smoke in a helicopter and being up in the plane and taking images that are based on where the heat is on the ground.

There's still a tremendous amount of heat. This is negative imagery and the stuff that shows the hottest is yellow and red and much of the film negative imagery was bright, bright red. So it's pretty amazing stuff. It was developed in Vietnam and we use it a lot.

The 120,000 acres is pretty accurate.

You noticed about half an hour ago the wind started kicking up. The fire is going to raise its head and get up and run today and we are very much not in control. Nature is in control.

Now, one of the things that happened last night is we put crews out and we put engines out and we had dozers working. The areas that were worked were the areas where houses are of the greatest concern. They went back into Pinedale, where there was active fire. We're still doing our damage assessment. We know that we've lost at least 15 homes and 20 others of outbuildings and other structures. But the thing is there were probably 100 or so that were saved.

The county has a damage team, a damage assessment team that's in there today and they're going by addresses and doing photo documentation and doing some things that will be reported as soon as we have the information.

The Red Cross is actually going to do the reporting of houses lost and damaged by addresses. That's probably going to take us another two days. There's still active fire today in Pinedale.

Another area that was impacted yesterday by fire was Rock Road and there's a couple of small subdivisions in there, another 20 or 30 homes. There are some losses in that subdivision area, as well.

Fire today may get to Clay Springs. I want to show you, and I'm going to back up here, Clay Springs is this area right here. The fire is right now at 260, at Highway 260. there's one other area of concern and that's down here in the Linden area. This is Timberline Estates. It's kind of a country club subdivision. There's some new, fairly expensive homes in there. If you've seen a couple of air tankers go up and if you've seen the big air cranes go over, we're working both retardant and water by the heavy helicopters in that area. It's at the limestone ridge. We've also got dozers and hand crews in there working.

Our objective is to keep this fire from moving east into West Show Low.

Timberline Estates is pretty iffy because we just might not be able to get enough done today to keep fire out with this wind. This wind is the primary factor. Our fire behavior analyst, Bill Jackson, is an old fire hand. He's not near as gray headed as some of us. But he's been doing this and he's trained specifically in fire behavior. About 20 percent of our time has been doing this for years and I'm one of them.

Bill said get ready because you're going to see fire behavior today like few have witnessed. We're in heavy pine with heavy fuels. It's dry. We're going to have 90 degrees, seven or eight percent humidity and 40 mile an hour winds. It's a recipe for as climaxed fire behavior as can be witnessed.

We may not see the huge plumes, although we've got one building over here now. But with these winds, it's going to push the fire over. It's going to shear the column and push it over. But the acceleration through the timber is going to be greatly enhanced by the winds.

Linden is at risk. Clay Springs is at risk. At this point, West Show Low is not because the fire is not moving towards the east at an accelerated rate and that's where we're working as hard as we can. And we have to do a caveat there. We also have a real low, a weak low up here, and it could either ebb through or it can make a little frontal passage. If we have a frontal passage and the winds actually shift towards the west, that's going to be a problem because that's going to push the fire towards West Show Low.

Hot Canyon is still our trigger point. If fire gets to Hot Canyon, we will evacuate West Show Low at the very least. Law enforcement is working. It might be everything west of where we are right now and not Pine Top and Lakeside. They're working on that with our operations folks.

WHITFIELD: He's talking about concerns of two very major fires out in Arizona, the Rodeo and Chadisky (ph) fires. He says right now just a few miles separate those two fires and 40 mile per hour winds are certainly in no way helping the scenario out there.




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