Saturday July 3, 2004 11:09 PM

The Gibson Fire has not crossed west of Forest Road 507 -- aerial tankers have dropped about 24 loads of retardant slurry along the road and it seems to be holding. The Gibson Fire -- yesterday morning at 10 acres is now at 1,800 + acres and has swung to the north side of High Peak and on the south has spot fires entering Marijilda Canyon which tops out at Heliograph Peak, the communications site for all of southeastern Arizona and southwest New Mexico -- not a good day! The Nuttall Fire was just as active particularly during the hotter and dryer part of the day driving fire into the higher regions of Left Hand Canyon (about 0.8 miles west of the Webb Peak summit). Around 1:00 PM we were advised the fire was going to overrun the Observatory in about 2 hours. That never happened -- the fire sat down just as it broached the ridge line at High Peak and south. While the smoke column was impressive the fire is between 3/4 mile and 1 mile away from us. We continue to have two persons on site (Joe James and Shane Olsen) accompanied by Team personnel.

The day was difficult for all concerned. The Gibson Fire has the potential to blowout in Fry Canyon which tops out 0.4 miles northeast of the Large Binocular Telescope. Two bull dozers are being transported up the mountain as we speak (11:00 PM). The Team will need those to implement a new strategy -- cutting an east-west line from the Clark Peak area and connecting with old Forest Road 507 near High Peak. The two fires separated by 5 miles would be allowed to burn toward each other finally joining perhaps somewhere around Webb Peak. A portion of that plan is to open the old Forest road 669 near the Observatory to isolate the Observatory from ground fire. The Team was *strongly* encouraged to cut the FR-669 line first to be prepared for the anticipated run at the observatory as early as tomorrow morning and more realistically tomorrow afternoon. I am not sure this will be their strategy.

At about 5:00 PM today a number of crews were sent to the Observatory site to begin cleanup operations out to 150 feet from the VATT and SMT buildings and 200 feet for the LBT. We anticipate that activity to continue tomorrow morning after the briefing at Columbine for crews on the mountain (7:00 AM). A new structure protection team has been assigned to the Observatory and will be moving on site tomorrow morning.

The retardant slurry batch plant has been set up at the fuel wood dump site (on the new road in the vicinity of the Forest sign). MGIO has been contracted to haul potable water for the batch plant during the day. The slurry is used by helicopter bucket crews and is close to the Gibson Fire. After *much* discussion and with great support from Coronado Forest personnel (Kvale, Smith, McAllister) we were finally able to convince the Team leadership to allow the use of our tanker to top off the MGIO water tank in the early morning hours. Until this time we have been restricted from using our sprinkler system -- sprinkling the grounds 100 feet out from the perimeter rope. Because of the late start tonight and the fact our tank is down 4,000 + gallons we will top off the tank for tomorrow morning's operations and begin a 5,000 gallon sprinkling operation at 5:00 AM on Monday morning.

John Ratje
 


 Copyright Arizona Radio Observatory.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact [tfolkers{at}email{dot}arizona{dot}edu].
Last updated: 02/09/10.