Increased Smoke From San Juan Fire Burnout Operations

June 30, 2014

(US Forest Service, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests)
Guadalupe Fire Department, off Hwy180/US191 near Nutrioso, AZ.

Burnout operations conducted at the San Juan Fire will increase smoke and fire activity in northeastern Arizona. Nearly nine square miles have been burned in an attempt to slow the fire’s progress.

Burnout operations started Sunday and will continue until Tuesday. Fire Information Officer Liza Simmons said steep terrain is forcing them to fight this battle from the air.

“So they’re using those aerial ignition balls to lite from the air,” said Simmons.

They call these “ping-pong” balls. They are filled with chemicals that ignite when they land.

“They are bringing that fire slowly out to established lines, and that prevents the fire from making big pushes toward, like, a road or a dozer line,” said Simmons.

The fire has burned more than 5,000 acres and is currently 5 percent contained.

“You know every day is a struggle, but everything has been going pretty good the last two days," Simmons said. "They are not saying a lot of containment, because to announce containment they really want those fire line edges to be cool.”

With steep terrain and high winds, Simmons said they have to take it one day at a time.

“Every day they are hoping to announce a little more containment around those edges that firefighters are currently working on to cool those areas and mop up those hot spots along the line,” she said.

So far, no structures have been lost to the fire, but several rural housing developments remain under mandatory evacuation orders, including Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead.   

There are 679 personnel battling the San Juan Fire. They are using helicopters, engines and bulldozers to combat the flames.