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Schultz, Brins, La Barranca, Wallow and Rodeo-Chediski are not the newest members of a city committee nor volunteers soon to be honored by a Sedona nonprofit — they’re the names of forest fires seared into the memory of Arizona residents.

The Brins Fire burns north of Uptown Sedona on June 18, 2006The Brins Fire torched the top of Wilson Mountain and descended into Oak Creek Canyon in 2006, burning 4,317 acres. The much smaller La Barranca burned 836 acres in the Village of Oak Creek earlier in that year’s fire season.

The Wallow Fire of 2011 was the biggest in Arizona’s history and burned more than 538,049 acres — about 70 percent the size of Rhode Island.

On June 18, 2006, the Brins Fire sent a massive plume of smoke into the air north of Sedona. I hurried to Uptown and met with city reporter Chelsea DeWeese and photojournalist Mal Cooper. We spent six or so hours on the roof of a home commandeered by a 10-man Hot Shot fire crew from Prescott. We watched as two helicopters and a plane dumped water in flight after flight to slow or stop the fire burning between the Sphinx and Wilson Mountain on Brins Mesa.

Crews from the Sedona Fire District and other agencies around the Verde Valley were stationed at strategic points to fight the fire if and when it turned.

The plane disappeared after a few hours — called away to fight a bigger fire burning closer to more homes in Flagstaff.

The bigger city had priority over our small town.

At one point, the Hot Shot crew leader turned to his firefighters and said if the fire broke the Brins Mesa ridge line and began moving down into the valley below, their orders were to dig a fire line.

He turned to face south and pointed to several homes scouted earlier and gave orders about where to draw the line. Homes on the south side of the line would be safe. They already had a 30-foot defensible space and would be easy to protect.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamHomes to the north would be considered already lost and given up to the will of the fire. They had brush and trees adjacent to structures and would be nearly impossible to save given the speed of the forest fire and the limited crew he had to use. The homes were causalities in a war against a foe with no sense of mercy nor reason.

Thankfully the Brins Fire stayed on the ridge and spared Uptown. However, it burned another nine days. Those who play along Oak Creek or make the drive up State Route 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff have likely noticed the denuded ridge absent of big trees where the fire threatened to jump the highway nearly seven years ago.

As we endure fire season, take steps now to create a defensible space if you haven’t already. We regularly print guidelines from SFD and fire agencies. Contact SFD or your local fire agency and have a fire marshal or trained firefighter check your property and recommend ways to protect your home.

The first step is prevention, and that starts with us. While fire restrictions on U.S. Forest Service and public lands differ, the basics are:

  • Fires, campfires, woodstove and charcoal fires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and picnic areas.
  • Smoking is permitted within an enclosed vehicle or building or in a developed recreation area.
  • Fireworks are always prohibited.

For the 2013 fire season, let’s do our best to make sure the only wildfire story that appears in our newspapers is how restrictions and fire-wise residents kept us safe all the way to the start of the monsoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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