By Jon Johnson
MOUNT GRAHAM – The Frye Fire continues to burn as government agencies keep up suppression techniques to hinder its progression until the monsoon rains put it out.
The fire has grown to 49,435 acres with 69 percent containment as of Sunday morning. It has cost roughly $23.2 million to fight the fire to date.
The size of the personnel has been cut roughly in half over the past week, from a high of more than 800 to just 414 currently on the fire. Other resources have been reduced as well, including a reduction to just five helicopters and two dozers.
The staff left have focused on slowing the fire’s progression on its south side from Pitchfork Canyon to Twilight Creek. Helicopters have dropped 20,000 gallons of water and 15,000 gallons of fire retardant in support of ground forces working near the area.
Firefighters also continue to patrol and protect the mountain’s campgrounds as well as the Turkey Flat area with its 74 cabins and the nearby historic Angle Orchard.
According to a news release from the Southwest Area Type 2 Incident Management Team 5 commanded by Jeff Andrews, strong northeasterly winds have hindered thunderstorm development over the burned areas of Mount Graham. On Saturday, the National Weather Service showed a significant amount of rainfall in southeast Arizona south of the Safford area, but, unfortunately, none of it fell onto the Frye Fire or the Burro Fire on Mount Lemon near Tucson.
Precipitation chances greatly increase for Sunday, however, according to the Frye Fire’s meteorologists. They advise the area could see small hail and brief, heavy thunderstorms with heavy downpours, lighting and gusty winds.
With the rain and monsoon storms, the chances of ash and sediment runoff increase. The rain, while helpful and needed to put out the fire, also has the potential to threaten life and property at the base of the Pinaleño Mountains, according to the release.
To that end, the Forest Service has brought in a Burned Area Emergency Response team to analyze the potential dangers and help alleviate them.
The Frye Fire began by lightning at about 2:45 p.m. on June 7. Mount Graham remains closed to the general public and all of the Coronado National Forest is under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions. The area is also under a temporary flight restriction, including the use of unmanned vehicles (drones.)