I left Colorado for home just as the sun rose. The alpen-glo on the mountains is fleeting, but so beautiful! These are Bear and Green Mountains, home to the Flatirons, the gorgeous sandstone formations that sit above Boulder.
Thank you to all who e-mailed me or left comments with concerns about how the fires around Flagstaff were impacting me. I deeply appreciate the thoughts and concerns!
While I was in Colorado, my sister who is the Forest Fuels Specialist for the Kaibab National Forest (which basically means she is the Chief of fire operations/planning/prevention on the Kaibab), let me know about the fires around Flagstaff. It was nice to be able to keep up with it despite being so far away. I’d seen the dramatic pictures from the Schultz fire’s first day. By the time I came home on day 3 of the fire, the massive thunderhead type clouds of smoke had been replaced by fuzzy clouds that stretched northeast for hundreds of miles. To me that was a good sign as it meant that the fire was no longer raging out of control and was moving at a slower, easier to fight pace. It was still pretty impressive to see the eastern base of the San Francisco Peaks wreathed in clouds of smoke.
Highway 89 had been closed for 2 days, but thankfully one lane had been reopened, which made getting home much easier. The fire burned right up to edge of the road and in some places, I believe it actually jumped the 4 lane highway. There were still many smoking hot spots all across the forest floor through this area. Many firefighting trucks and personnel remain in the area making sure things don’t flare up again.
Several of the neighborhoods in the area were evacuated and I could see where the ground was scorched into the yards. As you can tell from the amount of smoke, things are still burning and smoldering quite a lot.
In addition to the large number of forest firefighters in the area, there is also a large number of law enforcement officers. They help to keep people from returning before the fire danger is gone, but also to help keep the neighborhoods secure from looters. The media was also out in force. This open lot was filled with news trucks from all over!
As the road turned toward town, I got this shot looking past Mt. Elden towards Schultz Pass and the peaks beyond. The Schultz fire as I write this is 14,000 acres in size, covering approximately 19 square miles. According to NOAA, the smoke reaches as far east as Iowa!
What is even more amazing to me is that though the Schultz Fire is by far the largest, there have been three other fires around Flagstaff this past week. The Eagle Rock Fire is about 10 miles north west of Flagstaff (my sister is the current incident commander) and is 3400 acres in size. It started last Tuesday and is in the mop-up stage. The Hardy Fire started on Saturday and is 350 acres in size and within city limits. It also is in the mop-up stage as is the Ranch Fire. This one is the smallest and was started by a car fire, but quickly brought under control. I believe this one may have been within city limits as well. Amazingly, all the reports I’ve read indicate that no houses have been lost due to these fires!
If you’d like to read more about the fires or see better photos than mine, here are some links I came across in the past few days. Please note that most of these will only be available for a short time.
~The Inci Web (Incident Information System) official site for the Shultz Fire:
~ Amazing pics taken and blogged by an unsuspecting hiker on and adjacent peak on Sunday:
~ CNN article with some good video of the fire:
~NOAA satellite tracking of smoke
~Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff’s newspaper