Tue, April 07

Fire on the Mountain<br><i>First fire of the season hits north of Sedona</i>

Staff photo by Dean H. Borgwardt

MEMBERS of the U.S. Forest Service and Sedona Fire District maintain three reservoirs to supply helicopters with water. Three helicopters are committed to the fire, as are about 120 personnel. The fire has burned almost 100 acres in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness Area north of Sedona.

U.S. Forest Service Ranger Connie Birkland, public affairs officer for Red Rock Ranger District, said the fire is burning in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness Area about six miles north of west Sedona. The Round Fire is named for Round Mountain along the Mogollon Rim near the fire.

Round Fire has burned about 100 acres in a very remote area in a canyon below Secret Mountain and was reported on May 19 at about 2 p.m. by a lookout tower.

"It's several hours to hike to the area, so helicopters have been deployed to fight the fire," she said. "The fire reached to the top of Maroon Mountain and climbed the north-slope of Secret Mountain. Now we have Hotshot crews hiking in to fight."

She said firefighting aircrews have been working on the blaze since Monday but had to stop because of nightfall. It burned an additional 65 acres or so overnight and fire crews continue to battle the fire.

Firefighters and rangers are not yet sure of the actual cause of the Round Fire, but suspect that it was a campfire.

"There hasn't been any lightning and it was just after a weekend," Birkland said, "So, it was probably started by someone's campfire."

Birkland said that when the fire was initially reported, it was at about 5 acres and grew unimpeded overnight.

She said Hotshot crews from Mormon Lake and Flagstaff, and a crew from the Los Padres area of California came to aid firefighters.

Birkland said that because of the steeply sloped area, crews are going to flank the fire. The fire is in a prime habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl and the forest is comprised of mixed conifer and pine trees. Containment is not yet evident but firefighters expect to have a handle on it soon. The area is accessible by trail or air only. Three helicopters and about 120 personnel are committed to the fire.

Sedona Fire District Fire Inspector Gary Johnson said Sedona firefighters have set up water tenders to supply helicopters with water to fight the fire. The Northern Arizona Incident Management Team was mobilized to Sedona that will assume management of fighting the fire.

"You could see smoke from the city," Johnson said. "Now we have to establish a management team to handle the logistics of the fight -- the incident team will be responsible for feeding the firefighters and will handle communications. Management is the key to fighting the fire."

He added that Sedona Fire District has two water tenders at the helicopter dip-sites.

Rangers and firefighters wish to remind hikers, campers and anyone in the dry forest areas to be careful with fire. The weather forecast is for warmer and drier conditions that will increase the fire danger. Campfires are still allowed but Parks officials urge people not to leave them until thy are completely extinguished and dead out.

"Please be especially careful with fire during the dry season," Birkland said. "If you build a camp fire ensure a 10-foot clearing of soil around the fire and keep fires small. If water is not available to extinguish the camp fire, stir the embers into the soil until they are completely extinguished."

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