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Eyes burning? Head aching? Unexplained rash? The Verde Valley skies are filled with the smoke of area forest fires. If residents needed a reminder that they live in the middle of a forest, days like today will do it. What happens in the forest affects life in the towns.

 

 

By Mike Cosentino
Larson Newspapers
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Eyes burning? Head aching? Unexplained rash?

The Verde Valley skies are filled with the smoke of area forest fires.

If residents needed a reminder that they live in the middle of a forest, days like today will do it. What happens in the forest affects life in the towns.

According to Dr. Jason Wesley, emergency room physician at the Sedona campus of Verde Valley Medical Center, some of those effects will increase the number of patients.

Wesley said that those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other sensitive lung conditions might be making a trip to the ER as a result of the smoke.

Local residents with respiratory problems may want to remain inside if smoke settles into residential areas, the U.S. Forest Service advises.

The Coconino County Health Department has issued a reminder about wildfire smoke safety.

“Anyone who can see, taste or smell smoke should curtail outdoor activity,” a CCHD press release stated.

The thick smoke the area is experiencing is caused, in part, by the Forest Service crews dropping “ping pong balls” on the fire in a procedure called “burnout,” according to Deanna Younger, public information officer for the Coconino National Forest.

These incendiary devices are dropped from helicopters into the unburned interior of fires and got the nickname from their shape and size.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity

yesterday allowed firefighters to make significant progress.

The 2,500-acre Birdie Fire is now 70 percent contained.

Mop up continues with the assistance of bulldozers, engines and helicopters dropping water and retardant. There is now a fire line a substantial distance from the fire front around 90 percent of the fire perimeter.

Burnout from this anchor line began Wednesday, July 11, but rainfall stopped these activities.

Burnout will continue Friday, July 13, if conditions are dry enough.

The substantial acreage increase yesterday was due to those burnout operations, which rob the fire of fuel. Continuing burnout operations will produce more voluminous smoke at times.

The effects of fire on wildlife varies depending on the duration and severity of the fire.

The Birdie Fire and smaller area lightning fries are causing wildlife to move in unusual patterns.

“We can see them migrating a little erratically,” Younger said. “But we have not seen any injured animals so far.”

Visitors to the area often comment on the large number of dead trees.

According the to Coconino National Forest Web site, the majority of dead trees around Sedona and in Oak Creek Canyon is due to the bark beetle epidemic.

Many other dead or dying pine trees are victims of drought stress.

The Birdie Fire started July 6 and is located approximately 4 miles southwest of Mormon Lake Village, about 15 miles east of Sedona.

The USFS has committed 606 personnel in 14 crews with 20 engines, five bulldozers, 10 water tenders and six helicopters.


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