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Wallow Fire

Another big one in our service territory.  The Wallow Fire!

Time-lapse views from my comm site at Greens Peak:

June 8

June 9

June 10

June 11

June 12

June 13

June 14

See a time lapse of all videos joined

Here’s the timeline from White Mountain Independent:

05/29/2011 – 10:00 p.m.

A wildfire called the “Wallow Fire” is located about 15 miles southwest of Alpine, Arizona (legal: T3N, 28E, Sec 16) in the Bear Wallow Wilderness area. Currently the fire is at approximately 100 acres and is believed to be human caused. Resources on the scene are two engines, a dozer and a Type II team and additional resouces are enroute. The Type II Team will be briefed and transitioned on Monday at Noon.

The Reno Fire Lookout and some campers have been evacuated, and Hannagan Lodge residents have been notified. The Forest Service is asking recreationists and travelers to avoid the area at this time.

A road closure is in place from Wildcat Point on Forest Service Road 25 to Highway 191. The public is asked to avoid this area as well.

Strong winds are predicted for Monday with gusts as high as 34 mph. Please check for RED FLAG conditions and updates by dialing 593 or 928-333-3412 or on the website 593info.org at the ASNFs website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/ or here on WMIcentral.com.

Another wildfire occurred Saturday afternoon called the “Club Fire” and was located in the Pinetop Country Club area. The fire is being called contained at 13.5 acres with a dozer line around the perimeter. No structures were threatened and no evacuations were called on this fire with fuel types of pine and grass.

A reminder, northern Arizona is very dry and we ask you call to inquire about fire restrictions for the Apache-Sitreaves National Forests or any area you plan on camping or recreating.

Here is quick overview of what RED FLAG means to you. The use of campfires and charcoal grills are prohibited on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests during RED FLAG conditions, as is smoking, except within a building, an automobile, a developed recreation site, or within a minimum 3 feet diameter area cleared of burnable material. Pressurized gas stoves are allowed. Private property owners may have to get a permit from their local fire department to do any burning, or may be prohibited from any open burning until red flag conditions subside.

Forest Service offices and local fire departments fly the RED FLAG when severe fire weather conditions are present.

The Forest Service continues to promote safety messages to those visiting any national forest. As dry conditions exists, please use extreme caution if camping on the A-S or any national forest. There are no fire restrictions currently on the A-S, but check prior to heading out to camp to check if there are any restrictions in place or Red Flag Warnings.

Safety tips to follow when visiting public lands or other areas:

When finished with the use of a campfire, completely extinguish your campfire by drowning the fire, stirring it, and drowning it again. Never leave a campfire unattended!

Be careful with gas lanterns, barbeques, gas stoves, and anything that can be a source of ignition for a wildfire.

Park vehicles away from dry grass and avoid driving through tall grass.

Dispose of a lit cigarette or other smoking materials appropriately.

05/30/2011 – 9:45 a.m.

The Wallow Fire burning southwest of Alpine, Arizona is actually two fires burning very close together. One has spread to 850 acres, the other is estimated at 600 acres. They are about a mile apart. A Type II Team will be taking command of the fire today.

05/31/2011, 12:30 p.m. – Wallow Fire grows to 2,616 acres; zero percent containment

The Wallow Fire is actively spreading at a rate of up to a mile in a 24-hour period. Isolated and group torching of trees has been observed with the fire spotting ahead an average of 100 to 150 feet. The fire is currently located both inside and outside of the Bear Wallow Wilderness area and is burning in grass, brush and mixed conifer with a large dead and down component.

Firefighters are scouting for containment opportunities that include roads and terrain features. They are also assessing needs for protection of structures along Forest Road 26 including Hannagan Lodge, Josh Ranch, Beaver Creek, Sprucedale and the Reno lookout.

An Emergency Road Closure is in effect at the junction of Forest Roads 24 and 25 off of Highway 191 to the Black River Bridge. Motorists traveling Highway 191 may have limited visibility due to smoke. Residents who live in Springerville, Eagar, Nutrioso, Alpine, and Luna, NM will continue to see and smell drift smoke from the Wallow Fire.

The Incident Command Post is located at the Alpine Elementary School.

Strong sustained and gusty winds are expected at various times throughout the coming week. Please check for RED FLAG conditions and updates by dialing 593 or 928-333-3412 or on the website 593info.org, the A-S National Forest website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/ or here on WMIcentral.com.

Fire Facts

Date started: 5/29/2011

Number of personnel: 207

Current location: 18 miles SW of Alpine, AZ

Equipment: 10 engines, 3 water tenders, 2 dozers

Cause: under investigation

Aircraft: 2 helit-tankers, 2 Air Attack planes,

Size: 2,616

1 med. and 1 light helicopter, 4 Air Tankers  on order

Percent contained: 0

Estimated containment date:

Injuries to date: 0

Cost to date: $50,000

06/01/2011, 9:00 a.m. – Wallow Fire consumes 6,699 acres; community meeting tonight at 6 p.m.

A Community Meeting will be held beginning at 6 p.m. tonight at the Round Valley High School Auditorium in Springerville. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests personnel and Eastern Arizona Incident Management Team representatives will present information about the Wallow Fire and answer the public’s questions.

The Wallow Fire has grown to 6,699 acres as of Tuesday morning. Single and group tree torching with short sustained crown runs in heavy fuels were observed Tuesday. The fire continues to spot ahead and is actively backing down slopes. The fire remains active during nighttime hours due to poor relative humidity recoveries.

Forest Road (FR) 24 at the junction of FR 26 and Acre Lake Loop, also known as FR 8312, will be closed today. KP Cienega and Hannagan Campgrounds were closed Tuesday. An Emergency Road Closure is in effect at the junction of Forest Roads 24 and 25 off of Highway 191 to the Black River Bridge. Residents who live in Springerville, Eagar, Nutrioso, Alpine, and Luna, NM will continue to see and smell drift smoke from the Wallow Fire. Residents in Reserve, NM and Clifton, AZ have also reported significant smoke. Please see this link for information on proper precautions: http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/wildfire.htm

The A-S National Forests Fire Restrictions went into effect at midnight on May 31. The restrictions prohibit campfires, except in fire grills provided in developed recreation sites, smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle or building, and welding with an open flame. Please see the Forest website for more information: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/

Fire Facts

Date started: 5/29/2011

Personnel: 418, including 10 handcrews

Current location: 18 miles SW of Alpine, AZ

Equipment: 10 engines, 3 water tenders, 2 dozers

Cause: under investigation

Aircraft: 2 heli-tankers, 2 Air Attack planes,

Size: 6,699

1 med. and 1 light helicopter, 4 Air Tankers  on order

Percent contained: 0

Estimated containment date:

Injuries to date: 0

Cost to date: $916,542

06/01/2011, 4:15 p.m. – Evacuations in effect due to Wallow Fire’s progression

Apache County Sheriff’s deputies started evacuating dozens of campers in the Sprucedale area this afternoon, June 1, along Forest Road 26 about 18 miles northeast of the area where the Wallow Fire originated.

It was reported that fire crews were planning back-burns near two guest ranches in the Sprucedale area.

The movement of the fire has prompted the forest to announce the closure of the Alpine Ranger District of the Apache Sitgreaves National Forests effective immediately.

The southern boundary of the Closure Area is the Mogollon Rim and goes north to Forest Roads 249 and 116. The western side of the closure is the boundaries of the San Carlos Apache and White Mountain Apache Indian Reservations and goes east to Highway 191.

Highway 191 is closed from Alpine, AZ on the north, to the Strayhorse Campground on the south.

Portions of both Greenlee County and Apache County are affected by the closure.

A mandatory evacuation of all residents and visitors within the closure area is also in effect immediately. Private property within the closure area includes Sprucedale, Beaver Creek Ranch, Beaverhead, Brentwood and residents along Forest Road 26. Campgrounds include West Fork, and all of the campgrounds along the East Fork of the Black River. There is no access to the Black River.

Big Lake Recreation Area including all of the surrounding campgrounds remain open. Access to the area is from Highway 261 and Highway 273.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Updated: 9:38 pm – Evacuations in effect due to Wallow Fire’s progression; up to 15,000 acres burned

After briefing the public at a community meeting held tonight at the Round Valley High School Auditorium in Springerville, officials are estimating the Wallow Fire has consumed up to 15,000 acres.

Smoke today has made it impossible to obtain a clear acreage count. Infrared survalliance is expected to gain more accurate acreage numbers tonight.

Three airial attack helecopters are on scene. According to officials, the fire is actively burning at night and is at zero percent containment.

Hannagan Meadow Lodge has been evacuated in addition to campgrounds and ranches in the area.

The fire is approximately 15 miles from Alpine Arizona and the town and neighboring residences have not been evacuated.

See prior updates for areas under mandatory evacuation at this time.

Coop Happenings

At 8:00PM the Incident Commander (IC) requested that dispatch open circuits feeding Alpine, AZ.  One of the circuits fed the South Mountain tower site.  I got paged at 9:10PM of a high temp alarm.  Shortly after, my up-line equipment reported a link failure.  I’m assuming that South Mountain tower is burned or otherwise inoperable.  Checking Twitter, I found this:

Should I assume that the tower is down?

Since the last board and staff meeting, we made some changes to our PR and media communications methods.  We decided to post all of our outages on Twitter.  Our Twitter feed already had some followers – fire, public safety, USFS, as well as our members.  I called the editor to our regional paper and informed him that we were updating it routinely using the hashtag #wallowfire.  He was excited about it and got me in touch with their web developer to link the feed onto their site.

Update 5-3-2011 @ 9:42

Rerouting SCADA comms via a backup DSL connection in Reserve NM.  The link to Frisco Ridge to the office is still operating.  Only the microwave is down.  Steve mentioned that we could re-route traffic via Fox Mountain in Quemado, NM when the fire is under control.

Update @12:53

I sent two techs to Reserve to re-route some traffic but they ran into some issues connecting to the equipment.  They are bringing it back to the office where we’ll reconfigure on the bench and re-install tomorrow.  There’s a high chance that our backup communications path will be taken offline for the next 24 hours.

Like Hurricane Katrina, this will be yet another case-study about why utilities should never fully depend on anyone but themselves for communications.  Mobile data, iPhones, Droids, and other gadgets that rely on services from outside providers should not be put in routine use to replace a coop’s 2-way radio or primary communication system (unless the coop owns and operates the cell network).  Make it “business as usual” at all times.  My hat is off to GilaNet DSL service for staying up for as long as they have.

The repeater on Frisco Ridge was programmed for repeat-only.  This will give us coverage in the area but is not operating in multicast anymore and can now be viewed as its own network.  The 2-way voice traffic will have to be manually relayed between the two networks until the microwave is re-established to connect it with the rest of the network.

White Mountain Independent Update 1:16 pm, Fri Jun 3, 2011.

Wallow fire now 106,000 acres; Alpine, Nutrioso evacuated

Residents of Alpine and Nutrioso were evacuated from their homes last night as the Wallow Fire raged on. The fire has consumed 106,000 acres and there is no containment.

The fire reached the evacuation trigger point for Alpine at 2 p.m. yesterday and the orders to evacuate came in at 5 p.m. yesterday. The order for Nutrioso to evacuate came only a few hours later.

Navopache Electric is reporting that power to the Alpine area has been interrupted due to the fire conditions. For updates follow NEC on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NEC_LakesideAZ.

The fire made a strong push to the north and northeast with long range spotting. Evacuations include: Alpine, Nuntrioso, Hannagan Meadow Lodge, Sprucedale Guest Ranch, Brentwood Church Camp, Hannagan campground, KP campground, West Fork Black River campground, East Fork Black River campground. Burnouts were conducted around Hannagan Meadow Lodge, Sprucedale Guest Ranch and south Forest Service Road 26 east to Highway 191 around Josh Ranch. Alpine Ranger District implemented an area closure. The southern boundary of the closure area is the Mogollon Rim and goes north to Forest Roads 249 and 116. The western side of the closure is the boundaries of the San Carlos Apache and White Mountain Apache Indian reservations and goes east to Highway 191. Highway 191 is closed from Alpine on the north, to the Strayhorse Campground on the south.

[…]

Well, we got in the paper.  That’s a good thing.

Update 6-4-2011 @1725

Meet regarding the possibility of a transmission outage on Friday but was not certain.  At 6AM this morning, I attended a meeting for an update from the IC and our ICS liaison.

While tearing out my home deck, I overheard some radio traffic about the smoke in Springerville being the worst it’s ever been.  Also, that they saw spotting in Alpine proper.  “It’s in Alpine”

Transmission was cut off due to a firefighter back-burn operation.  We had a 3MW generator on standby.  The Twitter feed worked well for us.  WMI posted this on their website:

Navopache Electric has turned off all power between Springerville and Alpine to protect fire fighters as they create backburns to the west of Alpine.

(Source: WMI Central)

I don’t believe they got anything but our Tweet and made this information more public for us.

I planned on making the drive to Reserve to re-route some more SCADA communications; however, due the the road closures I decided to stay in Lakeside. I’ll wait for tomorrow if not Monday.

Update 6-11/2011 @1029

I started another blog posting: Wallow Fire – Week 2; however, not many hits are getting to it.  I’ll recap here (lesson learned)

SCADA communications were re-established using a VPN at the Reserve, NM branch office.  Everything came up except for some sites that we assume are burnt down due to the fire.

Since the last update on this posting, operations installed a generator at the Stevens substation in Reserve, NM.  The transmission line was taken off line to protect the firefighters during their back-burn operations.  There is a video posted on how we were able to back-feed the transmission using step-up transformers on the next posting.

Because our New Mexico service territory was offline and required communications more than ever, I decided to redesign a link.  My initial idea was to go from Greens Peak to Fox Mountain in Quemado, NM and then down to Frisco Ridge in Reserve, NM.  We have the remaining last-mile links already connected to the office which will get us to a GilaNet DSL line with very limited bandwidth.  I thought about purchasing some additional DS0 E&M cards for my Adtran routers and packetizing the voice traffic to link the repeater network but stumbled on a better solution.

Researching the tower sites, I called the State of New Mexico and asked for permission to get on their site in Fox Mountain.  They told me that it would require a letter addressed to the governor’s office.  I hung up and started compiling the letter.  Paul, my radio tech, asked me if I got the tower FAA or FCC call sign so that he could perform a path study on the new link.  “Hold on. I just got off the phone with her.  I’ll just find the call signs online somewhere.  Gimme a minute”.  I Googled for Fox Mountain and found the call signs and all of the other links that were on that tower.  One of them was from Greens Peak to Fox Mountain.  Who owned it: Tristate Generation and Transmission.  I went to Tristate’s website, called the main switchboard and asked to speak to the telecommunication’s manager.

He answered the phone.

After explaining the situation, he told me that he’d call me back.  About an hour later he called and told me that a tech is driving down from Denver, Colorado to perform the cross-connect at the Greens Peak facility and then at Fox Mountain.  The State of New Mexico called me and told me that a tech was driving up from Las Cruces to patch the way-side circuits in at Frisco Ridge.  In a matter of 2 hours, and a lot of cooperation between the State of New Mexico and TriState G&T, we got our communications links back up.  I’m very happy!

Update 6-13 @1800

We were able to get to the top of South Mountain today.  The site does not appear to be a total loss.  Propane tank was in place.  The generator would not fire.  There appears to be some damage to the radomes and some of the coax.  Here are some pictures:

A view of South Mountain from Alpine

South Mountain Tower Building

South Mountain Tower

Update 6-14 @0721

This morning everyone is working like busy bees.  Paul is going back to the South Mountain site to replace the generator and get power back on to the site.  The HVAC units and equipment will then be tested.  Meanwhile, Jeremy is headed to Greens Peak to turn on the microwave that is pointing to South Mountain and then he’ll head to Frisco Ridge to do the same thing.  Paul is going to power the microwaves and 2-way to check for reflected power and check the equipment for damage.

The diaphragm on the generator was melted.  I called Graves Propane to get a tank inspector to the site to clear it for operation.  Jeremy called CMI to replace the melted radomes and sweep the coax.  Also, I notified Verizon, Cell One, the user’s association and some of the other tenants that we were going to have some tower work done on South Mountain.

Our hope is to restore cell phone service, 2-way, and bring the microwave back online tomorrow.

Update @1224

The South Mountain comm site was powered up after the generator was fired up.  Because of the added load of batteries charging, we had to shed some load to keep the generator’s main breaker from operating.  We’re letting the batteries take a charge one bank at a time.  So far, everything came up and is operational – melted radomes and all.

We will not switch to production until the batteries are fully charged, the propane tank is inspected, the generator is given a clean bill of health, and the radomes on the tower are replaced.  Interesting: every tenant was at the top of the mountain at the same time – we only had to make one phone call and the word spread quickly.  It was quite a scene.

Update @1830

Paul brought the site online.  The microwave link from Greens to South came up even with the melted radomes.  The crews were able to use the radio from the South Mountain site during the day.  The tower inspection/repair crew will be on site tomorrow.

Issues:

  • The generator was not capable of holding the loadWorkaround: we switched the breakers off on the Eltek batteries and unplugged load from the emergency load center panel. This gave the batteries time to charge one bank at a time.  The cold-load was up three times normal.  Due to the altitude, the generator was de-rated 30% and couldn’t carry the site for more than 30 minutes without tripping.
  • The generator was failingWorkaround: we replaced the generator

At the end of the day, Paul was adamant about keeping the site online.  Because of the issues with the generator, I decided to shut all the equipment down, leave the generator running, and allow only battery charging.  Needless to say, Paul was not happy about my decision.

There was no way for us to actively monitor the current draw from the load side of the transfer switch.  I went to http://theengergydetective.com and purchased a load center monitor so that we could monitor this load during cold transfers.  I did this at another coop and it worked very, very well.

Albeit residential, this will do to monitor emergency load in real-time. It also has some graphing and trending software.

 Update 6-15 @1043

I called Empire to get a caterpillar D40-6 diesel generator on South Mountain site.  This should be enough to power the entire hilltop.  I asked the operations department to get a lineman on site to wire the genset into the tri-plex off the can instead of hooking only into our meter.  Kevin (the ops manager) was happy to help.

I got a great deal for a 24 hour run-time for the genset.  Everyone at Cat and Empire have been great during this disaster not only for us, but for the public in general.  As a rule-of-thumb they told me that I can expect to use 8 gallons of fuel to generate 100KW per hour.  I am anticipating a 15KW base load so, it’ll be less than 2 gallons an hour.  I spoke with the truck shop and they will deliver fuel to the site using a transfer tank every 3 days once the generator is online.  I am planning on this generator being in service for the next 4 weeks. (Pictures to follow)

Update 6-16

We have the tower crew working today onsite. The devastation to the tower was impressive. All of the coax needed replacing. We will be working on it for the next two days.

I ordered a generator that was in stock from a reseller in New Mexico.  When it arrived, it had a plastic enclosure.  Not usable for a hilltop.  I ordered a new one with a 2 week lead.  The rental generator is holding well and carrying the whole site.

The 12v power supplies and batteries were cooked.  I ordered a 48v to 13v DC-DC converter for the Frisco site so that we could move the batteries from Frisco to South Mountain to power the 2-way system.

Currently, the site is up and running.  The microwave’s wave guides need to be replaced because the weather shield is cracked. The 7/8″ line for the 2 way was replaced and the South Mountain repeater was brought back online.  We can keep the microwave running because the waveguide is still holding pressure.  It’s only corrosion that I’m worried about until it is replaced.

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2 Comments on “Wallow Fire”

  1. Miriam Sagan says:

    Thank you for all this.


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