odeo/Chediski Fire
rodeo.jpg (86258 bytes) Rodeo-Chediski Fire that burned 467,000 acres during late June and early July, 2002.

Description: In the last week, large fires roared to life in east-central Arizona on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation northeast of Phoenix. This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite was captured on Friday, June 21, 2002, and shows the massive smoke plumes created by the fires. The Rodeo Fire (east) began on June 18, and has engulfed at least 85,000 acres. Only a few days later, a second fire began less than 10 miles away. The Chediski Fire (west) began on Thursday, June 20, and by Friday morning had already grown to 7,000 acres. Thousands of people have been evacuated and at least a hundred structures have been lost. In the false-color image, vegetation is green and burned areas are red or reddish brown. Bright red dots mark the detection of active fires.   http://www.wilderness.org/Library/Documents/WildfireSummary_RodeoChediski.cfm 

Rodeo/Chediski Fire   Don Bertolette
  Jun 24, 2002 22:48 PDT 

The posts below reminded me of my first exposure to firefighting in the
Southeast. As degreed forester for the Daniel Boone National Forest, I had
been selected for a training detail as a hotshot firefighting crew foreman
(the Asheville Hotshots - Region 8's first interagency hotshot crew). We'd
done a few local training projects (some hazard tree removal in the Cradle
of Forestry, the placement of many cubic yards of woodchips along the trail
to the Joyce Kilmer Woods, etc.), and then sent off to the Okefenokee Swamp
(the north end, along the Georgia/Florida border). We arrived in our little
20 passenger converted school bus, at mid-afternoon. They directed us to
run a fireline south from a point on the road, as far as we could before
dark. In retrospect, it was a make-busy assignment, as much as a test of
our 'mettle'.

We proceeded south taking the vegetation down to mineral earth, and cutting
the overhead veg as high as we could saw and chop...briars grew up into the
shrubs and trees that grew over our heads, making difficult to impossible to
fully clear. After 1000 yards, it had turned dark, and we turned on our
headlamps and began hiking out our fireline...interestingly enough, our down
to mineral earth fireline had become a canal, with the water level
apparently just inches below the surface.

Upon return to the fire camp, as we remarked on how unusual it seemed to us
that there could be a problem with wildfire, with the water level nearly at
the surface. Imagine our surprise when they then told us that the wildfire
we were starting a fireline for, had "escaped from an island"...it seemed
that the wind was strong enough at the time of escape that it was able to
ignite the saw grass (lots of extractives) and carry the fire across the
water body, to droughty mainland vegetation.

As an aside, I am about a two hour drive from the Rodeo/Chediski Fire. My
wife's father lives in a summer home he started building 40 years ago in
Forest Lake, about 10 miles from the active fire line, and has been
evacuated. The two fires have just merged, totaling 325,000 acres. 325,000
acres of ponderosa pines (second growth for the most part) that hasn't been
sufficiently funded to have been treated with prescribed fire/fire
surrogates (thinning of small trees, to remove the fuel ladders that have
enabled these fires to more than double in size each day for the last 5 days
(325,000 from 120,000 from 60,000, from 25,000, from 600)...we were
initially astounded that the fire could go from 600 acres Wednesday morning
to 25,000 acres by Thursday morning (turns out, most of that occurred in a
few hours...sufficient heat built up that it sent a column of mixed gases,
flames, loose debris to nearly 30,000 feet then to drop in a downburst that
sent the flames several miles through our forests in 20-30 minutes).

Tonight's Forest Service briefing indicates that while we have 0%
containment, progress is being made. By this time tomorrow, there should be
5000 firefighters. We've got all the air tankers currently available (some
have had to be taken out of service due to a recent crash in Yosemite) and
the seven have dropped thousands of gallons of fire retardant. Numerous
helicopters, and crop dusters dropped water for local 'crises'.   More than a
hundred homes have been burned, but more than a thousand have been saved by
the heroic (can't say enough about firefighters these days!) efforts of
firefighters, who would come in just as soon as the wall of flames would
pass (sometimes one to two hundred feet), and immediately lay what water
they could to homes not already consumed.

The issue of thinning small trees, alone or in combination with prescribed
fire, is not an academic one here.