In a state know for wildfires, this one was off the charts. It caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. It was responsible for millions in property damage. It threatened entire cities. It endangered over 6,000 firefighters.
The fire was first spotted on a Wednesday in a forest south of Prescott, Arizona. Strong winds and dry terrain stoked the blaze as firefighters and forest crews sprang into action. The fire raged and within days it consumed 1,000 acres spreading to within three miles of downtown Prescott. Over 1,500 residents evacuated as the fire waged war on southern Arizona.
Meanwhile in eastern Arizona another wildfire rose up in Show Low. It roared across a 330,000 acre area. As firefighters and forest workers battled the blaze, their worst fear seemed unavoidable. The two separate wildfires were heading toward each other and within eight days, they merged into one fearsome conflagration of flame, ash and smoke.
Devastation reigned. The American Red Cross provided food and shelter to displaced residents. The President came to witness the destruction and the federal government designated the site a disaster area as firefighters battled the blaze. More voracious than ever, the fire continued its rampage of destruction.
Cooler weather and the firebreaks eventually began to have an effect. Five weeks after it began, the wildfire was starting to be contained. But the toll was sobering. This fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history, decimated 517 square miles, an area larger than Los Angeles. It reduced 423 homes to ash and cinder. It caused 30,000 evacuations.
Whether in a forest, at work or even in your own home, the power and fury of fire can destroy in minutes what took months or years to build. Your best plan is to fight back with prevention.
*Dispose of trash, flammable fluids, oily rags and other waste properly.
*Handle extension cords and electrical equipment with care.
*Remove frayed cords, replace damaged plugs and don’t overload electrical circuits.
*Smoke only in designated areas, and make sure cigarettes, etc., are completely extinguished.
*Know where fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.
EXTINGUISH THE CAUSES OF FIRE
*Copyright 2002 Harkins Safety B157