Home Community Lifestyle 377 Fire was a close call

377 Fire was a close call

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Heber, AZ
Photo courtesy of Ben Tenney, Heber, AZ

The 377 Fire is now 100% out. But, in case you have been totally unplugged, on Monday June 4 around 1:30 pm, a series of fires were reported in the area of the junction of State Routes 277 and 377 which is about five miles northeast of Heber-Overgaard. The investigation of the cause is still ongoing but as reported in a Navajo County Sheriff press release, it’s believed to have been a truck with a flatbed trailer which had something dragging along the road from which sparks caught the dry grass on fire. 

Overgaard, AZ
View of smoke from my front yard in Overgaard, AZ on Monday June 4, 2018
Photo courtesy of Barbara Samples
Overgaard, AZ
Photo from inside our vehicle at SR 277 and Mogollon Drive in
Overgaard, June 4 at 2:14pm.

The first fires were reported at milepost 1 on Highway 377 and within minutes 15 individual fires had been reported stretching from milepost 1 to 22 on State Highway 377.  Multiple municipal, state, and federal agencies responded.  The fires burning primarily in grassland from Milepost 9 to 22 were under control by sunset that first day, but fires within the forested area quickly grew together, threatening private homes in the Despain Ranch area.  A full evacuation of Despain Ranch was carried out, all residents and animals were safely moved from the area. Navajo County offered the fairgrounds as an evacuation shelter. 

Heber, AZ
Photo courtesy of AmeeJo Lima of fire from perspective of Pinecrest Lakes on SR 260 in Overgaard.

 

Thankfully, firefighters were able to keep the flames from burning through Despain Ranch by dropping flame retardant while cutting a dozer line along the south side of the fire turning it north. It was reported one home in the area had some paint blistering because of the heat.

Heber, AZ
Photo courtesy of Navajo County Sheriff Dept.

The main power line to Heber-Overgaard and Aripine went down on Monday afternoon as nine transmission power poles caught fire. Navopache Electric Cooperative worked throughout the night and the next day to replace the damaged power poles. Around 6pm  Tuesday evening, power was restored in most areas. Internet from Frontier was down as well.

Monday June 4
Photo courtesy of Navajo Country Sheriff

Aircraft were called into action against the fire soon after it was discovered and were in action within 30 minutes. There were three single engine air tankers which holds 600 – 800 gallons of retardant, a very large air tanker (DC10 holding 10,000 gallons of retardant) plus helicopters hauling water.

Working tirelessly for over 36 hours, Navopache Electric Cooperative’s Pre-Apprentice Groundman Brian Wiitanen smiles at a job well done. Photo courtesy of Navopache Electric.

 

The helicopters used the pond at the Tenney Ranch for water. The smaller helicopters were also able to land in their field to fuel up. The larger Chinook filled their 1000-gallon+ water bucket at the pond but they had to land elsewhere for fuel because of its size. According to Ben Tenney there were some anxious moments when the fire first broke out as it was very close to their homes. “Fortunately, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction,” Tenney said. “But,” he added, “I was really concerned for those in Despain Ranch.” 

 

Photo courtesy of Navopache Electric
Heber, AZ
Photo courtesy of Navopache Electric

Forest Service had set up their command center on the Mogollon High School campus in Heber and firefighters worked throughout the week to build a dozer line around the perimeter of the fire, protecting power lines, buildings and keeping on top of the hot spots in spite of the hot, dry and windy weather.

Heber, AZ
Command Center at Mogollon High School Campus in Heber, AZ

By the morning of Friday June 8th, the fire area was assigned to the Black Mesa Type 4 Incident Management Team of which local resident James McLaughlin is the Incident Commander (IC) with help from Sean Loscudo, the IC in training. 

 

Total acreage burned was 4,514 acres. The first day of the fire there were approximately 500 firefighters assembled from various municipal fire departments and US Forest Service personnel. We so appreciate ALL of the firefighters and other first responders who worked hard to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. Thank you to everyone at the U.S. Forest Service, Navajo County, DPS, the local municipal fire departments, and also to Navopache Electric and their linemen for your hard work getting the power restored so quickly. If anyone was left out, it is certainly unintentional as we are a very grateful community.

 

Living here is beautiful, however, fire is a very real threat that can break out at any time – it’s part of the package. Instead of panic, prepare yourself by taking photos of your possessions, organize your important papers so you can easily scoop them up at a moment’s notice and make a list of things you would need in case of evacuation, for example, medications. Think it through so when it happens again you can remain calm, cool and in charge.


Ideas for a Survival Kit from the American Red Cross

At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below:

1. Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)

2. Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)

3. Flashlight

4. Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)

5. Extra batteries

6. First aid kit

7. Medications (7-day supply) and medical items

8. Multi-purpose tool

9. Sanitation and personal hygiene items

10. Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)

11. Cell phone with chargers

12. Family and emergency contact information

13. Extra cash

14. Emergency blanket

15. Map(s) of the area

Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit according to needs such as hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc., baby supplies, games and activities for children, pet supplies, two-way radios, extra set of car keys and house keys, manual can opener.

Additional supplies to keep at home or in your survival kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:  whistle, N95 or surgical masks, matches, rain gear, towels, work gloves, tools/supplies for securing your home, extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes, plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, household liquid bleach, entertainment items, blankets or sleeping bags.

Source: redcross.org

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Barbara Samples was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ and has called Heber-Overgaard home since 2008. She is married to Larry Samples, who is co-owner with her in L & B, Inc., owner of the Mogollon Rim News. They have four (grown) children and two grandchildren. Barbara serves as the Editor.