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More than two-thirds of the trout stocked in all Arizona waters was saved May 24, from potential harm by the Slide Fire near the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery.

Three days after the fire got within a quarter-mile of the hatchery May 21, almost 375,000 juvenile trout were loaded onto four trucks that transported them in two trips each to other nearby hatcheries.

“Wednesday afternoon, things were getting pretty bad close to here,” said Bryce Sisson, manager at the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery. “We could see flames less than a quarter-mile from the hatchery that afternoon when we left. A helicopter was dropping water real close to the hatchery. It was looking pretty scary on Wednesday.”

Sterling Springs is responsible for producing 68 percent of the trout stocked in Arizona waters and typically produces 1.6 million eggs annually. The trout transported were fingerlings, or fish with scales and working fins who are not yet fully grown.

As the Slide Fire burned to within 30 yards of the spring that feeds the hatchery, high winds, rugged terrain and an abundance of fuels in Oak Creek Canyon the afternoon of May 21 made Sisson fear firefighting efforts would be nearly impossible.

“The fire was spotting all over in Sterling Canyon,” Sisson said. “I thought it was very likely the hatchery would succumb to the fire.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 4, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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