May 16, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Fire Information: (877) 208-2202 or (877) 208-4331
Acres: 12,000 Start date: May 12, 2012
Cause: Under Investigation Location: 21 miles south of Payson
Containment: 7 percent Fuels: Grass, chaparral, pinyon pine
Terrain: Steep, rugged Resources: 12 crews, 16 engines, 2 dozers, 2 water tenders
Total personnel: 403 Available air support: 8 helicopters, 6 air tankers
Summary: Strong winds, shifting from the east to the south greatly influenced the Sunflower Fire yesterday. As anticipated, the fire became very active during the afternoon with as the fire advanced to the north, northwest and west. Several dense pockets of fuel in the fire’s interior burned intensely resulting in three large plumes of smoke. In spite of this, the fire remained within established containment lines.
Actions taken by firefighters on the Sunflower Fire Monday significantly affected the results of suppression efforts Tuesday. When winds shifted Monday, blowing from the northeast, the decision was made to discontinue line preparation along Forest Road 201 and initiate firing operations, taking advantage of the wind to push the burn through the ground fuels into the interior of the fire. This created a wide black line along the perimeter. When the expected wind shift to a south wind occurred yesterday, the fire was prevented from reaching the road. Had these actions not been taken, there is a substantial possibility that the fire would have crossed the road, leaving firefighters no alternative but to move back to State Route 87. With no roads available between FR201 and SR 87, it would have been unsafe to place firefighters in between. The highway and the power lines would have been compromised.
Pushed by the same wind that helped with the black line operation on Monday, the fire moved rapidly to the southwest. It burned up to the seventeen year old fire scar of the Basin Fire and stopped at that point. This same influence may be expected when the Sunflower Fire reaches the scar of the eight year old Willow Fire. The thinner fuels in the fire scars reduces the fire intensity and slows the growth of the fire.
In any communities affected by smoke, actions may need to be taken to mitigate the conditions. Visibility is an excellent measure of air quality. If visibility is ten miles or more, the air quality is good. Visibility of six to nine miles indicates moderate air quality. Three to five miles of visibility indicates conditions unhealthy for sensitive groups. One and a half to two and a half miles, the air quality is unhealthy. One to one and a quarter miles indicates the air quality is very unhealthy. If visibility due to smoke is less than a mile, the air quality is hazardous. Smoke sensitive persons in affected areas may need to take action to mitigate the conditions. Remaining indoors, using air conditioning or temporarily moving to an unaffected area may be necessary.