2017 Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

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SkyIslandHiker
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2017 Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by SkyIslandHiker » Apr 25 2017 6:39 am

Temporary road and trail closure in the Santa Rita Mountains
Full suppression efforts in progress for Sawmill Fire
 
Tucson, AZ (April 24, 2017), For Immediate Release – The Coronado National Forest, Nogales Ranger District, will temporarily close National Forest Service Road (NFSR) 62 at the entrance to Box Canyon, easterly to the junction with NFSR 229, continuing southwesterly to NFSR 165 and on to the Melendrez Pass Communication Site in the Santa Rita Mountains.
 
On the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the closure includes the segment from NFSR 4110 northward to NFSR 4072. Also included are Cave Creek, Sawmill, and Florida Canyon trails.
 
The temporary closure is in place to provide for public safety and to limit traffic while fire suppression activities are underway on the Sawmill Fire. The roads are expected to reopen May 8, 2017, but may open at an earlier date, depending on the success of firefighting efforts.
 
The Sawmill Fire, located10 miles southeast of Green Valley and north of Madera Canyon, is burning on lands under the jurisdiction of the Coronado National Forest and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Fire size is approximately 7,500 acres. This figure is based on a visual estimate and will likely change.
 
Gusty winds and broken topography have contributed to growth of the fire, burning in tall grass, riparian woodland, mesquite/oak brush, oak woodland, and pinyon-juniper fuel types. Values at risk include homes, ranches and outbuildings, communications facilities, powerlines, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail.
 
The strategy for the incident is full suppression. Resources assigned include five hotshot crews (Aravaipa, Blue Ridge, Globe, Payson, Prescott), four hand crews from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, 20 fire engines, five air tankers, three helicopters, and miscellaneous overhead.
 
For more information on the road closure, please contact the Nogales Ranger District located at 303 Old Tucson Rd, Nogales, Arizona.  The office can be reached by phone by calling (520) 281-2296. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 
For more information on the Sawmill Fire, please contact Fire Information Officer John Cambra at (480) 826-7005.
 
On April 25, a Type II Incident Management Team will assume management of the fire. Contact information will be announced through a news release.
Last edited by SkyIslandHiker on Jul 11 2017 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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azbackpackr
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by azbackpackr » Apr 27 2017 4:04 am

I don't get why it's so horrible. Fire, no matter its cause, is a necessary part of the cycle on wild lands.
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Sredfield » Apr 27 2017 5:54 am

AZHiker456 can you tell what the fire has done to the oak trees? If they survive I think things will look pretty "normal" before too long.
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Jim_H
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Jim_H » Apr 27 2017 1:11 pm

azbackpackr wrote:I don't get why it's so horrible. Fire, no matter its cause, is a necessary part of the cycle on wild lands.
My belief, is that people are no longer accustomed to this, we don't see it that often in the same location to properly understand this, and there continues to be reinforcement of the negative effects over the positive, as well as the significant length of time between fire return intervals in most systems which tends to increase the likelihood that negative effects will be greater than the positive.

Most people also don't do what I did, and make a multiday trip to the places like McKenna Park deep in the Gila NF to view a forest that has a relatively natural appearance and higher fire frequency.
Nothing more enjoyable than a good hike out of town.

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AZHiker456
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by AZHiker456 » Apr 27 2017 8:03 pm

Sredfield wrote:AZHiker456 can you tell what the fire has done to the oak trees? If they survive I think things will look pretty "normal" before too long.
From what all of the locals that I’ve been talking with directly have been saying, the vegetation at the higher elevations has largely been spared and it’s primarily the lower level grasslands/foothills that are getting the brunt of it. That is consistent with the parts that I can see at least. And they said the same thing, that they lower level grasslands should recover pretty fast around here.
azbackpackr wrote:I don't get why it's so horrible.
Allow me to clarify – a few of the things I find terrible are the combination of: the amount of resources, money, time, etc. that is being spent on this incident… 100’s of people having to evacuate their homes / having their personal property destroyed, seeing panicked people around town who have been evacuated and animals in the temporary small shelter space at the fairgrounds… watching not only the area right near my homeland but such a beautiful part of our state get annihilated by the blaze. Don’t get me wrong, worse shit happens… the latest updates I’ve read still say there have been no deaths or injuries; and with some natural disasters [which this is now being classified as] there are lots of deaths & injuries. But what’s going on is still pretty terrible...
azbackpackr wrote:Fire, no matter its cause, is a necessary part of the cycle on wild lands.
…I’ve heard that as well BUT as far as I’m concerned, if there are adverse impacts to the ecosystem here as a result of the lack of fires then a few controlled burns would be a lot more time/*cost/resource effective and not damage peoples’ homeland, [if done properly], like this fire is doing. *They're saying as of mid-day today costs are up to 1.6 million.

And make no mistake about: It irritates the hell out of me when I used to hike a lot with groups and someone comments on the beautiful scenery, only to have one/more of the overly sensitive people in the group go pumpkin flavored nuts on them because, ‘god forbid’, part of the views include some landscape that had burned at one time. These overly sensitive folks then make it out to be like I [or whoever made the comment about the nice views] are happy that the land got destroyed from the fire. While I would never wish for our beautiful landscape to be destroyed, as far as I’m concerned, what’s done is done (and as you’ve said part of natural processes); and I focus the positives… the beautiful views that still exist… or the fact that in a fairly recently burned area, it usually means super fast & easy off-trailing!

It’s a whole other ballgame though while your in the midst of it… and not just some blaze in open desert / very remote ranges where no one lives for miles around; but one that uproots people/communities like this one doing.

I’ve already started to look for the positives though… about 36 hours into things, [while driving home from Sonoita and gazing at the blaze], I couldn’t help but think, ‘at the very least, this must be doing absolute wonders in terms of a little ‘bee control’ for our area.’

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flagscott
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by flagscott » Apr 27 2017 8:37 pm

azbackpackr wrote:I don't get why it's so horrible. Fire, no matter its cause, is a necessary part of the cycle on wild lands.
This is a pretty big oversimplification. Humans have changed things in a lot of ways, most of them bad for natural ecosystems, so simple statements like "fire is good" or "fire is natural" are at best misleading and at worst completely wrong. I don't really have time to post a detailed response, but humans have changed the vegetation so greatly in a lot of places, that fires nowadays can be much more damaging than they were in the past, and the recovery times can be much longer. Some habitats like grasslands and ponderosa pine thrive with fire, but whether or not any particular fire is beneficial depends on the state of the vegetation, the timing and severity of the fire, and how much of the habitat being burned is available elsewhere. Thanks to invasive species and climate change, some habitats that are highly sensitive to fire and rarely burned in the past are becoming much more fire-prone. It's hard to see all the recent fires in sagebrush or spruce-fir (outside Arizona, mostly) as a good thing.

As a general rule, I think fires started by people tend to do much more harm than good. The Sawmill Fire seems to be mostly burning in grassland, and that could turn out to be a good thing (or at least not especially damaging--though I will wait to see the final assessments before making any judgments; early reports are often misleading) but that's just an accident based on where the dumbass shooter was blowing stuff up.

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AZHiker456
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by AZHiker456 » Apr 27 2017 10:20 pm

@flagscott Excellent points!

@others I think we've all said our piece, and I'm hoping that anyone interested in continuing the debate over the fire topic can take it to a different thread...

...shifting gears back to the topic at hand: for those who have been using this thread as your sole source for Sawmill Fire updates, then it might interest you to know that the shooter was an off-duty Border Patrol Agent... I won't bother to post links cuz there are so many headlines... best thing to do is Google it and take your pick.

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by hikeaz » Apr 28 2017 7:41 am

An off-duty Border Patrol agent was the source of the fire that has so-far consumed just over 40,000 acres in southern Arizona, the agency confirmed on Thursday.
http://ktar.com/story/1545657/off-duty- ... n-arizona/



Can't believe that these guys (BP) don't have dozens of ranges set up that would be suitable - geez... dumb-a$$.
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chumley
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by chumley » Apr 28 2017 7:51 am

Not sure why this is shocking. BP agents aren't firefighters. They are trained for many things, but I'm guessing that none of them include anything about fire or firefighting. Is he supposed to "know better" because he's a border patrol agent?

Making dumb decisions is not dependent on somebody's occupation.

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Tough_Boots » Apr 28 2017 11:09 am

chumley wrote:They are trained for many things
too bad one of those things isn't how to use their firearms responsibly...
"there is no love where there is no bramble."
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SkyIslandHiker
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by SkyIslandHiker » Apr 28 2017 11:19 am

Inciweb has updated map this morning:

https://inciweb.nwcg.g...

Image

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by jonathanpatt » Apr 28 2017 11:24 am

NASA's Worldview, which has new imagery available of all (most?) of the world every day, has a good view of the burn area from Wednesday.
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by hikeaz » Apr 28 2017 12:08 pm

chumley wrote:Not sure why this is shocking. BP agents aren't firefighters. They are trained for many things, but I'm guessing that none of them include anything about fire or firefighting. Is he supposed to "know better" because he's a border patrol agent?
Making dumb decisions is not dependent on somebody's occupation.
Anyone who would use an exploding target in an unsuitable area is a dumba$$. The fact that the BP recruits take days of firearms training AND have access to all sorts of ranges moves this DA up (or down) a notch on the DA Kasem countdown list.
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Nighthiker » Apr 28 2017 6:16 pm

Late July and about 2am while at the scene of an auto accident on US 60 East of Apache Junction. While landing a helicopter a helpful sheriff's deputy decided he needed to place flares just as the helicopter landed. It started a five acre brush fire.
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by AZHiker456 » Apr 28 2017 10:50 pm

Just unreal... the total cost just to fight the fire as of right now is 4.26 million (http://tucson.com/news/local/cost-to-fi ... fb891.html). Total acreage burned is estimated at around 47,000. As forecasted, the winds were vicious and aircraft operations were halted as a result. Fortunately, instead of getting more out of control as originally feared based on the forecast, the cooler temps and overcast skies, [along with the efforts of the 800+ fire personnel who were out there today battling the fire], kept things under control and further improvements were made in certain areas.

The SW side of the Whetstones looked in very good shape from the time I woke up, and the evacuated residents in that area [i.e. Rain Valley] were able to return home (although the area is still under pre-evacuation). This afternoon I walked out to Hwy 82 from my home via some backcountry dirt roads. From my vantage point [around milepost 40], I was pleasantly surprised to not see any fire damage / no harm to the lowland area that is in immediate vicinity of the SW base of the Whetstones [see attached photos]. That said, I was still many miles away and there may be damage to some areas that isn't visible here. However, all things considered, this side of the mountains looks in excellent shape. Hopefully it will stay that way.
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IMG_4135.jpg
Rain Valley & SW side of Whetstones
IMG_4136.jpg
Rain Valley & SW side of Whetstones
IMG_4137.jpg
Rain Valley & SW side of Whetstones

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by azbackpackr » Apr 29 2017 6:15 am

@AZHiker456
Sorry to hijack the thread again, but I am just a wee bit slightly envious of your home location! :) And thank you for the reports.
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by air » Apr 29 2017 9:08 am

The recent Molino fire in the Catalina foothills was also said to be caused by recreational shooting.
Not mentioned anywhere is the fact that both of these fires are in areas choked with African grasses planted for cattle.
The experimental range studies warned that if you plant the african lovegrass it will spread to adjacent ranges and form nearly pure stands, and it did.
It reduces the diversity of native plants and animals, and does incredibly well after a fire and so it eventually takes over.

No blame is ever placed on man's attempt at modifying the grasslands to support cattle in the desert.
Its too late to fix this problem and this grass is now "naturalized" but did we learn anything?
Was it worth it? How much will this cost us in the future in $ and habitat lost?

Take a look at almost pure african cowgrass stand examples and please let me know if grasslands in the past had this much fuel:
https://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=623936
https://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=641200
https://www.flickr.com/photos/96641330@N00/33492791053/

Its easy to find more examples because people love the way it looks and I admit it looks pretty nice but it makes me very sad.

"The natural fire regime in desert communities has been altered as these species have increased, resulting in more intense wildfires that occur with greater frequency" - https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r3/f ... rdb5410292


https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index ... /5878/5488
https://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/unit/publ ... es/594.pdf
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Jim_H » Apr 29 2017 9:17 am

I think people just like to over react, on lots of things. This fire, just isn't that important, big of a deal or damaging. It isn't.
Nothing more enjoyable than a good hike out of town.

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by flagscott » Apr 29 2017 9:47 am

Jim_H wrote:I think people just like to over react, on lots of things. This fire, just isn't that important, big of a deal or damaging. It isn't.
One of the things about being a scientist is that you get trained to base conclusions on evidence.

I am going to wait until after the fire is put out to see what the assessments done by USFS and the other agencies say. Until then, there's really nothing to go on.

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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by Tough_Boots » Apr 29 2017 10:03 am

AZHiker456 wrote:. the total cost just to fight the fire as of right now is 4.26 million (
And to think some people are fighting to let the states take that responsibility on...
"there is no love where there is no bramble."
--bill callahan

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AZHiker456
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Re: Sawmill Fire closes AZT and some Santa Rita Trails

Post by AZHiker456 » Apr 29 2017 7:05 pm

azbackpackr wrote:Sorry to hijack the thread again, but I am just a wee bit slightly envious of your home location! And thank you for the reports.
Sure thing! I'm glad you and some others to appreciate the reports. :)

Luckily today the skies look blue for the first time in the direction of the fire. Although its not over and there is still much work to be done, the firefighters now have the upper hand with 61% containment (which was the figure for the end of yesterday). There are two individuals selling t-shirts right by the Sonoita fairgrounds, and both are going to donate a portion of the sales to one/more of the groups involved. Each did a very nice job with the design, and I bought one shirt from each and had the opportunity to talk directly with some of the firefighters [who had also come down to buy some shirts]. They were very cool and confirmed that the situation is under control. :) And one of the locals even said that some of the firefighters are already being sent home.
Jim_H wrote:I think people just like to over react, on lots of things. This fire, just isn't that important, big of a deal or damaging. It isn't.

Everything is relative. If we are talking about "balancing the stupid tarzan swinging' budget" (as George Carlin would say :D ), 4.26 million is pennies... but that kind of money given the circumstances I would think it a very big deal. As far as the land is concerned / from a community standpoint, it's definitely important / a big deal. Just one of many examples that really hit home (at least for me): http://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/on ... o-ranchers

Everyone's entitled to his / her opinion though. Just a word of advice, if you're ever in downtown Sonoita, you might not want to broadcast your views on this fire...

And for those out there who follow the fire news closely and want to see how the Sawmill Fire stacks up, I meant to post this yesterday but forgot: http://www.kvoa.com/story/35277835/sawm ... te-history

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