Officials: Monsoon moisture needed to extinguish Woodbury Fire

The location and size of the Woodbury Fire about 8 p.m. June 18, according to inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6382/.

Moisture from a monsoon is needed to extinguish the Woodbury Fire burning in the Superstition Wilderness, an official said at a community meeting June 18.

“So this fire is going to be going until the monsoons. It’s not going to be put out this week, next week. We have to get monsoon moisture out there to put it out,” Robb Beery, long-term fire analyst with the Type 1 Southwest Area Incident Management Team (Team 2), said at the meeting. It was held at 6 p.m. at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church, 6640 S. Kings Ranch Road.

Monsoons generally arrive in the region between July 7-14, he said.

“So we’re looking at fire behavior out four to six weeks still,” he said.

Robb Beery, long-term fire analyst with the Type 1 Southwest Area Incident Management Team (Team 2), gives a presentation June 18 in Gold Canyon. At his left is a sign-language interpreter and in the foreground is a stenographer. (Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

Mr. Beery is part of the 56-member team that took over management of the Woodbury Fire on June 12. The incident command post is at Peralta Trail Elementary School, 10965 E. Peralta Road in Gold Canyon.

The fire that started 5 miles northwest of Superior in the Tonto National Forest started June 8 and is now 44,451 acres and 15% contained, according to an 8:39 p.m. June 18 release from the Arizona Emergency Information Network.

There is no immediate threat for communities around the fire; however, firefighters continue to improve barriers and provide structure preparations as contingencies, the release states.

Because of the fire danger, the sale of fireworks will not be allowed until October, Superstition Fire and Medical District Chief Mike Farber said at the June 18 community meeting.

“As of tomorrow … we’re banning fireworks, both the sale … and the use of until at least Oct. 1,” he said.

The July 4 fireworks show at Apache Junction High School will not be affected by the ban, he said.

“In addition, there will be a fireworks show at the high school. Now [those are] grass fields, we have fire trucks there, we’ve done this for years … so no problem there,” Chief Farber said.

The Woodbury Fire is primarily moving east and northeast, with 760 personnel fighting the fire on land with assistance from helicopters and planes in the air, officials said at the meeting.

Some of the hundreds of people who attended the June 18 community meeting in Gold Canyon (Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

Gold Canyon resident Bill Riggle said he saw plumes of smoke rising from the Superstition Wilderness June 18 as he drove home on U.S. Highway 60 from work in Tempe.

“You could really tell all the way from Tempe how intense the fire was, so definitely wanted to get an update and see what was going on,” he said of the meeting.

“It looked like the whole mountain was on fire. When you got closer it wasn’t as intense, but when you’re back in Tempe it … was behind the Superstition Mountains so it looked like everything was burning, which it is,” Mr. Riggle said.

Gold Canyon residents James and Charlotte Kraus attended the meeting to learn if the fire is heading west.

“We’re afraid of what’s going to happen with this fire,” Mr. Kraus said. “I don’t know what the odds are that the fire will come over the Superstition Mountains,” he said.

“What they’re saying is that the fire is moving northeast and so it is moving away from where we live here in Gold Canyon, so the threat isn’t intense,” Mrs. Kraus said, looking at notes she wrote in the margins of a release handed out at the meeting.

“But at this time it’s not a threat. They’ve got a perimeter established, which is wonderful. They’ve done something — wonderful things. I took all kinds of notes. They have hundreds of people — firefighters — out there. I’m very impressed with the efforts. They are magnificent. I really am impressed,” she said.

June 18 AEIN update

The following actions were successfully completed June 18 on the Woodbury Fire, according to the release from the Arizona Emergency Information Network:

  • Fire was kept east of the Superstition Wilderness boundary and south of State Route 88 on the eastern and northern portions of the fire perimeter. The vegetation in this area is light flashy fuel of dead annual grass that burns rapidly and then tends to die out quickly.
  • Fire spread to the east in chaparral-brush-type fuels. A large smoke column could be observed in the afternoon from fire in this fuel type.
  • Fire growth south of the Superstition Wilderness boundary was minimized along the southern edge of the fire’s perimeter. As on the western flank, these fuels were predominantly dead and dry annual grass.

A helicopter was used for aerial ignition the morning of June 17 to begin a low-intensity fire burn in the Reavis Ranch area to reduce fuels in front of the advancing fire to protect an apple orchard and Medusa Tree. The huge juniper tree near the Reavis Ranch, sometimes called the Medusa Tree, and the orchard both appear intact. The fire moved beyond the area by late afternoon June 18, according to the release.

The fire moved easterly June 18 into pockets of heavy chaparral vegetation north and east of Iron Mountain that have been unburned for many decades. A smoke column observed over the fire was from that area, the release states.

The Arizona Emergency Information Network is the state’s official source for emergency updates, preparedness advice and hazards information, and related resources, according to ein.az.gov.

The Woodbury Fire information line is 505-399-2439, the e-mail address is 2019.woodbury@firenet.gov, and the website is inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6382.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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