Frye Fire’s growth stymied but expected to increase with dry weather

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Forest Service: A Chinook helicopter drops water on the Frye Fire on June 23.

Fire listed at 38,500 acres with 43 percent containment

By Jon Johnson

MOUNT GRAHAM – After a week of growing thousands of acres per day, the Frye Fire’s growth overnight was minimal, increasing to 38,500 acres with 43 percent containment.

It’s progression toward Turkey Flat has also not increased from the previous day, according to Frye Fire public information officer Mike Cole.

The Frye Fire began by lightning strike June 7 at 2:45 p.m. and has spread throughout Mount Graham. On Sunday night, the Northern Rockies National Type 1 Incident Management Team led by incident commander Greg Poncin took over management of the fire. To date, the fire has cost roughly $11 million to fight, but no structures have been burned.

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: Smoke rises from the Frye Fire, caused by lightning from an afternoon thunderstorm. This photo was taken shortly after the storm was over, on Wednesday, June 7.

The thunderstorm that blew through Sunday night may not have helped put out the fire, but the increased humidity did help keep it from growing. However, the weather forecast shows a return to hot, dry and windy weather, which will aid in the fire’s resurgence, especially on the northwest side which seemed almost dormant last night.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Forest Service: Crews continue to utilize helicopters to “check” the fire with water drops.

“The little bit of humidity increase and moisture in some places just kind of slowed it down a little bit,” Cole said. “That’s going to change today.”

The two areas of most concern are the northwest corner and the southeastern side.

Turkey Flat

Firefighters continue their preparations around the Turkey Flat area with all of the sprinkler system plumbed and ready to go. The group has different action points where various suppression actions take place, depending on the fire’s behavior. The main goal in the area is to try to save the 74 cabins from damage, as well as other infrastructure.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Forest Service: This picture shows the sprinkler system put in place at Turkey Flat.

Firefighters came across a large propane storage yesterday and protected it as well as various other infrastructure.

“They (firefighters) are finding stuff like that,” Cole said. “Sometimes we get notified and sometimes we find things on accident . . . There’s all sorts of infrastructure on this (mountain). It’s pretty amazing.”

Northwest side

Crews continue to monitor and prepare contingency lines on the northern and western side of the mountain. Cole said local ranchers have helped with planning by providing information regarding local roads in the area. The goal is to keep the fire on Forest Service lands.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The Frye Fire’s western front looked dormant last night but it is still active and could begin smoking like it is in this picture taken June 22.

“That is a valuable resource having local knowledge,” Cole said.


A contingent from the University of Arizona is expected to inspect the Mount Graham International Observatory today. The observatory possibly suffered heat damage, especially the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, when the fire came within 50 feet of the observatory June 18.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Amy Marie Sawyer: Flames approached the Mount Graham International Observatory Sunday, June 18, and personnel at the observatory said they could feel the heat from the viewing deck.

Angle Orchard

Angle Orchard has been spared from any damage to date and preparations have been made to protect the orchard.

“Angle Orchard is just fine,” Cole said. “They’re all situated good. Of all the places people are concerned about, everything is still standing and in good shape.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The southeastern area of the fire continues to be a concern.

With the weather change, more smoke is likely to come from the mountain today as the fire is expected to ramp up again. The smoke will be from the Frye Fire as no new starts were located from the direct lightning strikes that occurred during Sunday night’s thunderstorm.

The mountain remains closed and stage 2 fire restrictions are in place for all of the Coronado National Forest.

A public meeting on the Frye Fire will be held Wednesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. at the Thatcher Middle School cafeteria at 1300 N. Fourth Ave. in Thatcher.