If you have been outside, you may have noticed the smoky skies and the haze taking over. The air quality in Navajo and some parts of Apache Counties will likely remain poor through Wednesday. The smoke is being carried by the Labor and Valentine fires burning south and southwest of Navajo and Apache Counties.
If you have health conditions, you may want to consider taking measures to protect yourself. Here’s the latest updates on both fires.
Labor Fire Update:
Acres: 2200 | Containment: 0% | Total personnel: 65
Start Date: September 4, 2023| Cause: Lightning |Location:13mi NW of Forest Lakes, AZ
Fuels: Open Ponderosa pine with a grass understory
Operations: Through the weekend, fire managers plan to complete the remaining preparation work on the fire containment lines. As preparation work is completed and as conditions allow, firefighters will continue ignition operations. Please be alert for fire personnel working in the area. Roads may be restricted at times depending on the operational needs of fire personnel.
Fire Ecology: The work on the Labor Fire is the first step in returning fire to a fire-dependent ecosystem. Fire has been absent in this area for well over 50 years. During that time, litter, duff, and woody debris has accumulated to unnaturally high levels. The excessive fuel could support severe fire effects and extreme fire behavior if it burned during the peak fire year before monsoons. The moisture from the last few weeks, combined with carefully chosen ignition patterns and patience, is allowing the fire to burn with the desirable fire behavior. https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/wildfire-crisis
Weather: 3-to-5-day weather predictions indicate slight chances of precipitation over the fire area. High temps expected to be in the 80s and minimum relative humidity in the mid-teens. Winds are predicted be variable but primarily out of the southwest. Higher chances of showers and thunderstorms are expected to enter the area beginning Tuesday.
Smoke: Smoke will be visible from highway 260 and may also settle on the highway. An interactive smoke map at https://www.airnow.gov/ allows you to zoom into your area to see the latest smoke conditions.
Valentine Fire Update:
The Tonto Type 3 Fire Management Team for the #ValentineFire will be hosting a community meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2023. The meeting will begin at 6pm MST at the Christopher Creek Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Please use the Christopher Creek Loop Road entrance. For more Fire information visit: https://linktr.ee/valentinefire
Sunday, September 10, 2023
Size: 1491 acres
Start Date: August 16, 2023
Total personnel: 200
Location: 11 miles northeast of Young, Arizona and 27 miles east of Payson, Arizona
Fuels: Ponderosa Pine, Hardwood litter and timber
Highlights: Moisture and expected wetting rains in the coming days may slow crews down, but work will continue as conditions allow. Resources continue to make progress utilizing hand and aerial ignitions.
Operations: Yesterday, crews were able to continue hand ignition along the Colcord road (FSRD 291) and progress west to the 411 road before pausing operations due to weather. Crews conducted tactical firing operations on the west side of the Young Road (FSRD512) where they were able to hang up ignitions on the powerline access road (FSRD 411 C) where they plan to conduct aerial ignitions today should conditions allow. Crews will continue to clean up interior pockets and work west along the 291 as ground fuels dry out after the moisture received yesterday. Resources also responded to an Initial Attack near Christopher Creek Campground which was contained at approx. 1.6 acres.
Fire Ecology: Historically, many wildfires would burn for weeks or even months. During that time, there would be changes in the weather, just like we’re seeing on the Valentine Fire, that change fire behavior and fire effects. The plants continue to grow as well, so the effects are different where the fire began burning than they will be where the fire finishes burning. For example, some seeds that fell to the ground before the fire burned through may burn up in the fire. Seeds that fall after the fire has burned, will have an extra shot of nutrients when they germinate.
Weather: The fire area received some precipitation yesterday on the northwestern perimeter causing a pause in fire operations moving west. Today, there is expected to be more cloud cover and a slight chance for scattered afternoon precipitation in the area. Beginning early next week, a system moving in around Tuesday, will come with increased chances of wetting rains and thunderstorms.
Closures: An emergency closure order for the Valentine Fire has gone into effect as of 6 a.m. Sept. 5, 2023. The public is asked to avoid the fire area. The purpose of the closure order is to protect public health and safety during the Valentine Fire, and to protect assigned firefighting personnel engaging in wildland firefighting operations. Signs and gates will be in place to remind the public not to enter the fire area. Please visit the Alerts and Notices page for more information. https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/tonto/alerts-notices.
Safety: The health and safety of firefighters, and the public are always the highest priority. Members of the public are asked to avoid the fire area.
Smoke: The fire will produce considerable amount of smoke due excessive fuel accumulation. Smoke from the Valentine Fire may be visible in the surrounding areas for many days. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures an interactive smoke map at https://www.airnow.gov/wildfires/ allows you to zoom into your area to see the latest smoke conditions.
Information Links and Contacts:
Tonto National Forest https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/tonto/fire
InciWeb https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident…/aztnf-valentine-fire Fire Email email@example.com
Fire Information Line (928)-421-4579 • Office Hours: 8:00 AM – 8:00PM
Pictures show hand and aerial ignition progress below the 291 powerline access road. Photos from Tonto NF Type 3 fire management team.