Frye Fire grows to 2,500 acres, Type 2 Management Team to take over

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The fire line in back burn operations at a lower elevation of Mount Graham is clearly visible in this picture. A back burn effort has been undertaken at heliograph to help protect the assets there as the Frye Fire, now at 35,569 acres, continues its progression that way.

Back burn operations begin

By Jon Johnson

MOUNT GRAHAM – With the Frye Fire now at roughly 2,500 acres, back burning operations have begun and a Type 2 Management Team has been called to take over management of the fire starting Monday.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Coronado Fire District: Smoke bellows from behind the telescopes of the MGIO.

While the main focus of the fire has been building fire lines on the top to protect cabins and the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO), with the fire spreading out at lower elevations, the decision was made to back burn in the lower elevations to ensure resources wouldn’t have to be taken from the operations at the top of the mountain.

“We’re just trying to pick our battles,” Gila/Las Cruces Type 3 Incident Management Public Information Officer Nick Smokovich said. “It’s going to go out as it leaves Frye Mesa regardless, we just didn’t want to have a large fire leaving Frye Mesa and having most of our resources committed to the top of the mountain.”

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: A CH-47 “Chinook” firefighting helicopter prepares to land at the Safford Airport. The snorkel dangling underneath the aircraft, is used to suck water out of lakes and ponds to then dump on fires.

Those resources have dug fire lines around the top and have set up back burn areas to hopefully stop the fire’s spread southward uphill. Helicopters have made water drops on the blaze in Ash Creek Canyon to help slow its ascent. The cabins at Columbine and the Bible Camp sits at the top of Ash Creek Canyon.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: A back burn line meets up with the regular burning fire in this picture taken Friday night.

A Type 2 Management Team from the Albuquerque, New Mexico region will begin transitioning into management Sunday with a full takeover Monday. The Lizard Fire in Cochise County and the Highline Fire in the Tonto National Forest roughly eight miles north of Payson have both had residential evacuations and both have Type 1 Incident Management teams.

With the forecast calling for extreme heat with consistent winds, the humidity will remain low and the fuel for the fire will remain dry, causing it to flare up much easier and spread faster.

“We’re just really grateful for all the support we’ve had from the community,” Smokovich said. “They’ve very much been behind the firefighters.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central

The Frye Fire began Wednesday, June 7 by a lighting strike at about 2:45 p.m.