AZ residents ready to evacuate

BY SUSAN KIM | HEREFORD, AZ | March 8, 2002

More than 300 residents

in southeast Arizona will have to evacuate at a moment's

notice if a fire in the Huachuca Mountains keeps


Cochise County officials issued a pre-evacuation alert

to 345 households, according to Steve Plevel,

spokesperson for the Arizona State Land Department.

Sheriff's deputies went door to door, leaving fliers or

talking personally with residents.

Residents have been meeting in small groups to talk

about preparation for evacuation and to try to ease each

other's fears. The area is socio-economically diverse.

County officials also alerted response groups such as

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross, Plevel added.

About 250 firefighters -- using two air tankers, five

helicopters, and 10 engines -- are fighting the 1,770-

acre fire. Gusting winds were fueling the inferno, and

fire crews believed it could take until next week to get

the blaze under control.

The southeast Arizona mountain range runs north and

south, with large canyons running in both directions.

Homes in the area are mainly located in the canyons, so

fire fighters are concentrating their efforts there. The

fire is burning at elevations of 7,000-9,000 feet and

had reached the mouth of Miller Canyon Friday. Residents

in Carr Canyon were also warned they could have to


People in high-risk areas should be tuned in to their

local radio station so they will hear if evacuation

becomes necessary, said Plevel. "They should gather up

their important papers, hook up their horse trailers if

they have them, and be prepare to leave quickly with

everything dear to them."

Firefighters were hoping to gain ground Friday because

the humidity was in the 20 percent range and could climb

to 60 percent Friday evening. Officials said the fire

likely spread from an abandoned campfire.

Most of the firefighters cannot directly attack the fire

because it is burning in terrain that is too steep to

negotiate. Crews were cutting fire lines and lighting

back burning fires west of the Huachucas to keep the

fire from spreading.

The blaze has burned within three miles from the

boundary of Fort Huachuca. The fire has also reached

parts of the Ramsey Canyon Preserve, an internationally

known birding site home to more than 170 species of

birds, including up to 14 types of hummingbirds.

Officials closed the preserve late Tuesday.

The fire is blazing some 85 miles southeast of Tucson.

It has been burning tinder-dry pine and juniper for a

week after igniting in Oversite Canyon west of the


Forest Road 61, which links with Arizona 83 near Parker

Canyon Lake, has been closed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most

of the burned area lies in the Miller Peak Wilderness

Area, which is surrounded by the Coronado National


The fire risk in Arizona will be very high this spring,

said Plevel. There has been less-than-normal rain and

snow, and "the humidity is usually so far down that

field instruments can't even measure it," he said.

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