Firefighters Fight Fire With Fire In Arizona As Wildfire Rages On

Firefighters in Arizona have been working tirelessly to quell the flames of a wildfire that began on Tuesday afternoon between Flagstaff and Sedona. Firefighters spilled into Arizona in an attempt to keep the wildfire contained. There are close to 1,000 firefighters currently battling the blaze.

So far, the Arizona wildfire is currently only affecting Oak Creek Canyon. The Canyon is mostly scenic and no homes or businesses have been destroyed. Regardless, precautions were taken and 3,200 residents nearest the blaze were prepared for evacuation. Although they haven’t been affected yet, wildfires can be unpredictable and this one is still only 5 percent contained.

Although the wildfire was burning with a lower intensity, by Saturday morning it had grown to 16 square miles. Officials expect that the Arizona wildfire will grow to over 30 square miles as a result of the method being used to battle the flames.

In an effort to keep the wildfire away from the evacuated homes and businesses, Arizona firefighters have been using a backburn technique. A “backburn” is an intentional fire set by officials that burns in the opposite direction of the wildfire. The controlled burn is used to clear the path of the wildfire and remove the fuel that allows the fire to spread. There is some room for error, but it’s a method that has worked in the past.

It’s easy to wonder how that kind of technique would work; literally fighting fire with fire. There is science behind it, though.

Robert Lamb, a writer for Stuff to Blow Your Mind tackled the subject in an article:

“When faced with an oil-well fire, firefighters have been known to remove the oxygen from the equation by detonating a little dynamite. The blast eats up all the local oxygen, leaving nothing to keep the fire going. When an entire forest is ablaze, however, a different tactic is in order. Firefighters remove the fuel — and what better way to quickly remove combustible underbrush than to carefully set it on fire?”

It’s been an uphill battle for firefighters, according to Tony Sciacca, an Arizona fire incident commander, “They’re engaged in tough terrain, cutting vegetation, applying fire to the landscape as they need to in burnout operations.”

Officials reported that the burnout operations are nearly complete on one side of the wildfire. Other areas are so difficult to get to, due to terrain or walls of flame caused by the wildfire, that they continue to have limited ability to do much at all.

The burnout operations have had the side effect of spreading heavy smoke over Flagstaff and Sedona. Poor air quality has caused the Arizona citizens to consider staying indoors the best course of action.

[ Image courtesy of ABC News ]