Crews set their own fires to slow 10,775-acre blaze near Patagonia

2013-05-24T00:00:00Z 2014-07-22T11:15:47Z Crews set their own fires to slow 10,775-acre blaze near PatagoniaTom Beal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A wildfire in the Patagonia Mountains grew to 10,775 acres Thursday, as crews set fire to grass and brush to establish a perimeter around the blaze, southwest of Patagonia.

Containment, the measure of how effectively that perimeter has been established, also grew, from 15 percent to 70 percent.

"Most of that fire was ours," said Michelle Fidler, spokeswoman for the team fighting the week-old Soldier Basin Fire.

The team of 200 personnel lit fires on the ground with torches and used "aerial ignition" - incendiary devices dropped from helicopters - to light fires along ridge tops, allowing fire to burn slowly downhill rather than raging up, Fidler said.

Fire jumped the containment lines at one point Wednesday, getting close to homes in the rural Flux Canyon area. "We brought in additional aircraft and had crews already on the ground," Fidler said. No evacuations were ordered, she said. Two heavy air tankers were called in to drop flame retardant and protect the homes.

That 40-acre "slopover" was controlled and crews worked Thursday to "secure, especially the north and east perimeter," near Flux Canyon, she said.

The fire line in Flux Canyon is about three miles from the town of Patagonia.

Fire officials from the Coronado National Forest, which manages the area where the fire is burning, held a community meeting in Patagonia Thursday to brief residents on firefighting plans. Forest officials also announced a closure order for the entire perimeter of the fire and the forest roads that flank it.

Fidler said the concerted activity Wednesday evening to blacken fire lines was done in advance of predictions for gusty winds through the Memorial Day weekend.

The area within the perimeter is not entirely burned and includes at least one ranch where firefighters had to do "point protection" to keep the fire from buildings, Fidler said.

Interior pockets will continue to burn until the fire runs out of fuel or the monsoon rains come, she said.

This fire is "a little blacker than some," she said, because it is burning quickly through continuous swaths of dried grass and shrub oak.

Overall, she said, "Things are looking good. The plan seems to be going well, and we're working on strengthening those lines."

On StarNet: Go to timeline.azstarnet.com/wildfires for information on notable wildfires in recent Arizona history.

Contact reporter Tom Beal at tbeal@azstarnet.com or 573-4158.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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