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Mon, July 22

Very close call: Burns averted potential wildfire disaster south of Prescott

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>
Crew members from Prescott National Forest’s Engine 32 clean up the fire line at the Creek Fire, one-half mile east of Ponderosa Park on the Wolf Creek Cutoff in the Prescott National Forest on Wednesday.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Crew members from Prescott National Forest’s Engine 32 clean up the fire line at the Creek Fire, one-half mile east of Ponderosa Park on the Wolf Creek Cutoff in the Prescott National Forest on Wednesday.

PRESCOTT - A fire that ignited south of Prescott this week could have torched into the south side of Prescott if not for prescribed burns and other fuel reduction activities, the fire's incident commander said.

"It could have been the Indian Fire all over again," Incident Commander Bob Travis said. He was referring to a 1,345-acre wildfire that burned five homes on the southern fringes of Prescott in 2002.

The Creek Fire ignited three miles south of Prescott Wednesday on a red-flag day. The National Weather Service issued the red-flag warning because of strong southerly winds and low humidity.

Another human-caused wildfire that also ignited Wednesday northeast of Williams, the Eagle Rock Fire, has now torched at least 3,415 acres and forced the temporary evacuation of about 60 rural homes. It was 30-percent contained Friday.

The exact cause of the human-caused Creek Fire south of Prescott is under investigation. While it ignited in a campsite, it didn't start because of an abandoned campfire, Travis said.

Prescott National Forest officials have not yet instituted any fire-use restrictions this season. They are considering doing that before the July 4 holiday weekend if they see an increase in key factors such as abandoned campfires and temperatures, spokesperson Debbie Maneely said.

Without previous prescribed burns and timber sales, the Creek Fire likely would have charged north into the communities of Groom Creek and Ponderosa Park as well as the Haisley Homestead subdivision in Prescott, Travis said. It was located east of the Indian Fire burned area so that would not have stopped it.

Fuel for the two-acre Creek Fire was limited because the Forest Service has conducted one to two prescribed burns at that site as well as a green oak sale over the past decade, said Travis, the assistant fire management officer in this zone who has worked on this forest since 1983.

Therefore, fire crews were up against flames only a few feet high instead of flames torching the crown of ponderosa pines.

"This is the poster child for prescribed fire," Travis said. "This was worth every bit of the smoke that people put up with.

"It would have been 10 times worse."

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