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Fighting Bug Creek Fire took help from many partners
Size of fire, containment holding steady

A single engine air tanker drops a load of retardent to create fire lines on the Bug Creek Fire near Cordes Lakes Tuesday afternoon. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)
Photo by Les Stukenberg.

A single engine air tanker drops a load of retardent to create fire lines on the Bug Creek Fire near Cordes Lakes Tuesday afternoon. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

CORDES LAKES – For Mayer Fire Chief Eric Kriwer, it was a busy 18 hours or so.

The Bug Creek Fire was dispatched at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, and Kriwer responded to the area of Cordes Junction with his firefighters.

“The initial call (was) to check a fire out,” he said, “and we had heavy smoke showing … so we immediately upgraded that fire for a full response.”

Kriwer took command and began ordering additional fire crews and equipment.

Ten minutes later, a fire was reported back in Mayer, along Highway 69, at mile post 271.

Bug Creek Fire status

• Acres burned: 1,080

• Containment: 50 percent

• People working the fire: 70

• Structures lost: None

But Kriwer’s seven on-duty firefighters and officers were already tied up on the Bug Creek Fire, so Central Arizona Fire units were called to deal with the fire in Mayer.

As more personnel arrived at Bug Creek, the Bureau of Land Management took over command of the firefighting efforts, and Kriwer was re-assigned to oversee the structure protection division, which included his crews, Prescott Fire Department, and Central Arizona Fire.

It was a challenge: Mayer’s biggest incidents are usually motor vehicle crashes. “We have become very accustomed to maximizing our efforts with the staff we have,” he said, but a fire like this requires the help of other agencies.

“When a large event happens within our community – and we’ve seen a lot in Yavapai County – our agencies work together and do their best. This is a perfect example of all the different entities working together.”

In this case, Camp Verde and Sedona fire crews also responded to help Mayer cover their calls and to work Bug Creek.

Kriwer worked the fire all day, left for a few hours, and was back out there Wednesday morning.

“We had crews on overnight, and we bedded down some crews at Mayer Fire Station 22, some of the crews camped out, and Mayer Fire,” with the help of reserve firefighters “and BLM, staffed two engines to patrol the fire (overnight) so the crews were able to get some rest,” he said.

And they all got back to work at sunrise.

Kriwer said the fight to save houses was not easy, with the flames advancing in two directions, but none were lost.

Still, he said, “Defensible space improvements need to be further educated to the community. The aerial and ground resources (made) the difference on this fire.”

BLM spokeswoman Dolores Garcia said there were homes destroyed in a December 2015 fire and people might assume incorrectly they are structures burned in this fire.

Although few people used the evacuee shelter at Mayer High School, preferring instead to standby at the McDonald’s restaurant, where they could see the flames, Animal Disaster Services (ADS), which cares for pets displaced by evacuations, had its hands full.

“It was pretty crazy from 1:30 until they went home at 10:30,” volunteer Bob Salazar said Wednesday. “Some (evacuees) were going to stay with friends, but they still bring the animals to us, and we watch them until they’re able to go back home.”

Salazar said they cared for 33 dogs and 10 cats at the ADS shelter, due to the fact that two rescue facilities were evacuated.

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