Story updated Saturday, Oct 25, 2020, 10-AM MST Incident Management Team 1 issues final report
by Meteor staff from Forest Service reports
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Crown King, Ariz
Crown King, Ariz., Oct 25, 2020 – The Southwest Area Incident Management Team 2 will transition the Horse Fire back to the Prescott National Forest on Monday, October 26, 2020. This will be the final update from the Southwest Team 2; further updates and information on the Horse Fire will be provided by the Prescott National Forest.
A smaller number of firefighters and engines remain to work with the Forest in its on-going operations to monitor the Horse Fire. Heavy equipment is still being used to improve FSR 58 and FSR 52, and crews are chipping downed trees and clearing vegetation.
A winter storm front is still on track to impact the fire area this weekend and early next week. Temperatures will drop sharply, and humidity will increase making good conditions to aid in wildland firefighting. Winds will increase Monday on mountain ridges reaching 40 miles per hour, yet no fire growth is anticipated. Smoke may be seen or increase up on the northern edge of the fire as heavy timber continues to molder within the fire perimeter. There is no threat of fire spread.
The public and residents of Crown King are reminded that an area closure for the Horse Fire remains in effect. Even though deer season is underway, hunters are asked to stay out of the closure area which includes portions of Game Unit 20A/B. Please view the Fire Area Closure Map to see what portion of the unit is closed.
Update Oct 24, 2020 – The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team is winding down operations Saturday on the Horse Fire after containment increases to 63 percent.
The Incident Management Team reports:
“With no perimeter growth, evacuations were lifted for certified residents of Crown King. Firefighters remain in the area to ensure safety. There is no evidence of heat or smoke from the western edge to the southern tip of the fire perimeter. The FSR 52 is secure, though smoke will be seen from smoldering Ponderosa. Heavy equipment is still being used to improve the FSR 52 and FSR 58, and crews continue chipping downed vegetation.
Firefighters will inspect and monitor all containment lines Saturday. Up north, only two areas show smoke, and they are deep into the interior of the Horse Fire and in the Towers Creek drainage but pose no threat.
A winter storm front arrives this weekend with a sharp drop in temperatures and big increase in humidity that helps subside fire activity. By Monday and Tuesday, winds will increase on ridges in higher elevations, and this may produce increased smoke as unburned pockets of heavy fuels continue to smolder from within the fire perimeter. Officials expect no perimeter growth in the north.”
A Horse Fire area closure remains in effect. Although deer season is underway, hunters are asked to stay out of the closure area which includes portions of Game Unit 20A/B. Please view the Fire Area Closure Map to see what portion of the unit is closed.
Friday, Oct 23, 2020 10-am MST
The USFS incident team fighting the Horse Fire to the West of Crown King, Arizona reports progress in the suppression of the wildland fire. With 49% containment, the team reports the western perimeter is secure. Crews successfully extinguished all heat sources on the southern tip and southeastern area. Heavy equipment is being used to improve FSR 58 and FSR52, making it accessible to emergency vehicles. There is no new growth or movement of the fire.
The only remaining heat and smoke are well within the interior of the northeast corner of the fire, which is inaccessible. Aircraft is being used to monitor the interior pockets of heat which will smolder until a rain/snow-ending event.
With containment up and threats reduced, resources are slowly being released Friday and Saturday. Firefighters will continue to monitor the fires edge looking for any remaining heat and hazards; and begin to start working on suppression repair such as chipping trees that were cut for firebreaks.
In Crown King, firefighters are breaking down sprinklers and removing equipment as the risk of fire is greatly reduced. No structures are damaged or destroyed. The Yavapai County Sherriff’s (YCSO) office is evaluating evacuation orders today. For information on evacuations please call YCSO at 928-771-3260.
The Prescott NF Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team will conduct an in-depth assessment of emergency post-fire risks that could potentially impact human safety, impact property, and damage sensitive resource values of the Horse Fire.
A BAER assessment will be initiated when the fire is fully contained. Post-fire risks are normally affiliated with flash floods and unstable soils. The footprint of the fire is located within steep and rugged terrain that is susceptible to post-fire soil instability and higher run-off. However,
the fire perimeter is in a remote area and initial surveys suggest minimal post-fire values are at risk.
An initial assessment of the current perimeter suggests a probability of lower post-fire risks associated with winter storm events. Winter precipitation patterns normally do not pose flash flood risks. Flash floods that are normally affiliated with monsoons would most likely not occur. However, there is still a risk of flooding with sustained winter precipitation which would be predictable and affiliated with normal flows that would gradually increase.
Additional Horse Fire BAER Assessment information is available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott/
The southern half of the Prescott National Forest remains in an emergency closure. Although deer season opens today, hunters are asked to stay out of the closure area (Game Unit 20A/B). Please call Arizona Game and Fish for more information at 602-942-3000.
Thursday, Oct 22, 2020, 1:30-PM MST – The Horse Fire has had little growth over the last few days since ignition on Sunday it has grown to 9,536 acres. Smoke can be seen on the northeast corner where smoldering continues as heavy dead and down continues to burn. Minimal activity is expected Thursday as a cold front approaches, though winds increase and no additional moisture expected into the weekend.
In preparation for the wind, firefighters are strengthening firelines and extinguishing hotspots along the southern tip and eastern side of the fire. Firefighters continue to hold the fire to the west of FR 52/Senator Highway. Two dozers and a road grader are being used improved FR 52 and have created contingency fuel breaks around the community of Crown King. The fire has not had any growth in the direction of Crown King or Towers Mountain. The west side of the fire is secured.
High temperatures will drop at least 15 degrees from today to Monday. There is a chance of light showers on Sunday or Monday and potential for snow above 6000 feet. The cold front also brings increased winds each day, with gusts up to 35 miles per hour by Saturday. Colder temperatures and higher humidity decrease chances of fire spread in fine, grass vegetation; however, heat remains on the north and northeastern side where dry and dead timber continues to burn. The fire will smolder, and smoke will be seen in those areas as pockets of interior vegetation continues to burn.
Update 10-am MST, Wednesday, October 21:
According to the National Forest Service wildfire incident management team on-site at the Horse Fire the southern perimeter of the Horse fire shows little heat Wednesday morning, though winds are forecast to increase each day through Saturday and could rekindle interior heat sources.
Crews are directly on the fire’s west-southwest edge holding containment there at 32%. The fire is moving and making short runs in the northeast corner where it is being monitored; helicopters are being used if needed.
Along the Forest Road 52/Senator Highway, firefighters are actively working this area to slow and hold the spread of fire to protect the community of Crown King, which is just two miles to the southeast of the fire’s perimeter. The goal is to keep the fire to the west of Forest Road 52. Dozers are being used to create firebreaks and vegetation is being cleared to protect Crown King. To date, no structures are reported damaged or destroyed.
Evacuations are still in effect. Today, the Yavapai Sheriff’s Office will escort residents into Crown King for short home visits between 8:00 a.m. and noon. Proof of local residency is required; for information, go to the Sheriff’s webpage at https://ycsoaz.gov/ or call: 928-771-3260.
Update 9-am MST Tuesday October 20:
USFS has posted a video of “Horse Fire Virtual Community Meeting” from 6-pm Tuesday evening:
Or you can scan the QR code here and it will take you to the Prescott NF Facebook page.
If you do not have a Facebook account, don’t worry, you do not need one to watch.
Also, after the meeting is over the Meteor will post a video as an update to this story.
USFS reported this morning that the horse fire has grown overnight to 9,162 acres, says fire is still contained at 21%.
The Horse Fire burned actively Monday in the northeast corner of the perimeter from Blind Indian Creek to Pine Springs drainage and made short runs. Hotshot crews will aggressively work in this area on Tuesday.
Residents can expect to see aircraft that is heavily being used to supplement on the ground firefighting.
In the Crown King community, crews continue to create firebreaks; sprinkler systems are in place in the center of town and areas homes, with crews expanding protection Tuesday to the southwest areas. The community of Crown King remains evacuated.
Along FR 52 (Senator Highway), the fire is moving slowly and predicted to hold in Pine Creek and north of Thompson Butte. Activity in the Ash Spring area continues to slowly move through dry vegetation. The southern half has cooled with heat deep inside of the fire perimeter. However, temperatures are above normal and dry and dead vegetation creates the potential for fire movement if wind hits from the correct direction. Warm and dry conditions continue through Wednesday.
The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team is working to surround the fire and keep it out of the communities of Crown King, Minnehaha, Cleator, Black Canyon City, Groom Creek, Ponderosa Park, Walker, Potato Patch, Breezy Pines, Pine Flat, Lookout Mountain, Wilhoit, Wagoner, Walnut Grove, and Prescott.
In addition, protection is important for critical infrastructure, including the Towers Mountain and Wildflower communication towers; APS powerlines; Horsethief, Union, and Spruce Lookout Towers; and transportation infrastructure.
Update noon Monday October 19:
On Monday the fire had grown to 8968 acres and according to NFS is 21% contained.
Three firefighting divisions are protecting the community of Crown King, Arizona from the Horse wildfire Monday by creating firebreaks, constructing fireline, and installing sprinkler systems from the center of the town to outward structures. Crown King is evacuated. Additional work occurred along the southwest fire perimeter where firefighters increased containment to 21 percent.
Most of the heat and active burning is occurring in the northeast perimeter to the west of FR 52 (Senator Highway). Crews are actively engaged along Senator Highway working to keep fire activity to the west of Senator Highway. Activity at Hooper Saddle continues to consume vegetation and slowly move south.
Due to severe drought, plants are dead or dry and make for good fire fuel. Access is limited by the steep terrain and dense vegetation, making it unsafe for firefighters to fight the fire directly at the edge. Therefore, the Horse Fire will burn within its footprint for a long duration until significant moisture consistently hits the area for longer durations.
The Horse Fire started on October 15, 2020 when there was no lightning; making it a human-caused fire that is under investigation. The Prescott National Forest had no burning operations or prescribed fires.
All roads leading into Crown King have been closed – Goodwin, Senator Highway at Palace Station, and County Road 59 from Cleator. Please avoid the area to allow emergency personnel access. Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Code Red ‘Go’ for the communities of Crown King, Minnehaha, Horsethief Cabins and any private inholdings in and around the fire area. There are evacuations currently in effect. For information on the Code Red alerts issued you can visit the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for updates or call (928) 771-3321 or to sign up for Code Red notifications visit Yavapai County Code Red Notification.
The USFS will hold a community update virtual meeting from their Facebook page at 6-PM MST Monday, Oct 19: https://www.facebook.com/PrescottNF/
Correction the fire size at 5-PM MST October 18 was actually just above 8,000 acres, not the 9,000 reported in the initial story. The article has been updated to reflect the actual size.
The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team has arrived in Crown King, AZ to take command of the Horse Fire Sunday. Additional firefighters and support equipment should arrive shortly.
The Horse Fire is actively burning northwest of Crown King and about 18 miles south of Prescott in very remote areas of the Prescott National Forest. With brush as high as eight feet, dense vegetation, steep terrain, and limited access options, firefighters cannot be placed directly in front of the fire. Aircraft is and has been aggressively used since the fire began Thursday.
Firefighters are working Sunday to creative protection of the communities of Crown King, Minnehaha, Cleator Black Canyon City, Groom Creek, Ponderosa Park, Walker, Potato Patch, Pine Flat, Breezy Pines, Lookout Mountain, Wilhoit, Wagoner, Walnut Grove, and Prescott.
Additionally, crews are working to safeguard critical infrastructure: communication towers (Towers Mountain, Wildflower), APS Powerlines, Lookout Towers (Horsethief, Union and Spruce), transportation systems, as roads and bridges.
All roads leading into Crown King have been closed – Goodwin, Senator Highway at Palace Station, and County Road 59 from Cleator. Please avoid the area to allow emergency personnel access.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Code Red ‘Go’ for the communities of Crown King, Minnehaha, Horsethief Cabins and any private inholdings in and around the fire area. There are evacuations currently in effect.
The Horse Fire was reported by Union Lookout shortly after 12:00 PM on Thursday, October 15th. The fire is burning through juniper and chaparral on the north side of Horse Mountain.
Approximately 6 miles northwest of Crown King and 18 miles south of Prescott (T11N, R2W, S24).
At 4-pm MST Friday, aircraft on the scene mapped the fire at approximately 300 acres. by 6pm Friday the fire had grown to 2,600 acres. And at 11 am Sunday, Oct 18 the fire had grown to over 8,000 acres the largest fire in over a decade on the Prescott National Forest.
Due to the fire’s remote location and rugged terrain, fire managers are currently relying on aircraft to suppress the fire.
For information on the Code Red alerts issued you can visit the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for updates or call (928) 771-3321 or to sign up for Code Red notifications visit Yavapai County Code Red Notification.
The last fire recorded in the month of October within the Prescott National Forest was in 2007 at only 630 acres; this is an unprecedented year for fire activity