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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news September 15, 2014

6/27/2013 6:00:00 AM
DOCE FIRE: Ground coordination, air support helped save homes from blaze
NASA/Courtesy photoThe Doce fire is visible from space in a satellite photograph taken from 500 miles above the site. 
The red lines around the fire are slurry drops.
NASA/Courtesy photo
The Doce fire is visible from space in a satellite photograph taken from 500 miles above the site. The red lines around the fire are slurry drops.
Fire could be contained today; gun range closed
The Type I incident management team turned the 6,767-acre Doce fire back to a local Type III team Wednesday, and they hope to fully contain the fire today.

Red-flag conditions on Tuesday pushed the forecasted containment back by a day, Type I Incident Commander Tony Sciacca said.

The fire area, Granite Basin Recreation Area and Granite Basin Road remain closed to the public. So do the Alto Pit and Dosie Pit areas.

The Prescott National Forest has closed the Prescott Sportsmen's Club shooting facility in the Granite Basin Recreation Area until at least July 31 because of the fire, club President Cindy Ksenzulak said.

To accommodate local enthusiasts, the new Chino Valley Shooting Facility along Perkinsville Road will now be open Thursday and Friday alongside Saturday and Sunday, she said.

For more information on the shooting range, go online to cvfs.us.

For a map of the closed burn area, go online to fs.fed.usda.gov/Prescott.

For maps and photos of the fire, go online to dcourier.com and flickr.com/docefire.

Other online Doce fire information is available at regionalinfo-alert.org; the fire's Facebook page; and the fire's Twitter account at twitter.com/DoceFire. A site with information about fires around the country is inciweb.org.

All fires currently are illegal in Yavapai County.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

A combination of plentiful air support and well-oiled coordination on the ground made all the difference in preventing the Doce fire from torching any homes, Doce Fire Incident Commander Tony Sciacca said.

Local fire and law enforcement agencies spend a lot of time working together and just this spring, they conducted an extensive drill as a new Northern Arizona Type III incident management team led by Groom Creek Fire District Chief Todd Bentley.

Many of those team members were part of the initial attack around 11:30 a.m. June 18 on the Doce fire just west of Prescott. Sciacca, a retired Prescott National Forest fire manager who also runs the Arizona Wildfire Academy here, ran the operations section with the help of Eric Marsh and Jerry Anderson.

When the blaze crossed Iron Springs Road before noon and then started marching up Little Granite and Granite mountains, local firefighters knew they were facing trouble.

National aviation support soon started laying retardant and water along the western flank of the fire so firefighters on the ground could get closer. They tried to steer it up Granite Mountain into the boulders and slow it down. That worked on the previous Doce fire in 1990, Sciacca said.

But this Doce fire started pushing down the northeast side of the mountain at an amazing speed, growing to 5,000 acres in just seven hours and forcing the evacuation of about 460 homes in Williamson Valley. About 20 homes in the Granite Basin area already were evacuated.

The local team called for help from a top Type I national incident management team.

Sciacca's Type I team just happened to be next on the rotation, so it was assigned to arrive on the Doce fire the second day of June 19. He and many of his team members happened to be from the Prescott area.

The local Type III team members including Bentley already had built an incident action plan, and that really sped up the transition to the Type I team, Sciacca said. Instead of taking 1-2 days for the transition, it took just 12 hours.

"That was way huge" in getting more resources mobilized quickly to save homes, he said.

Strong air support for hundreds of firefighters was huge, too. Structures clearly were in danger of burning when flames hit backyards, and that gave the Doce top priority for national resources because other major fires weren't in that situation at that moment.

Two DC-10 jets (called VLATs or Very Large Air Tankers) painted nearly 12,000 gallons of retardant on the western and eastern flanks of the blaze during each drop. Other large air tankers carry 2,000-3,000 gallons.

"There's only two DC-10s in the nation (fighting wildfires), and to have both of them on one fire is pretty amazing," said Pete Schwab, air operations branch director on Sciacca's Type I team.

One of the DC-10 pilots, Kevin Hopf, grew up in Prescott. A company named 10 Tanker Air Carrier owns the aircrafts.

The DC-10s were flying alongside one of the Forest Service's "next generation" BAE-146 heavy air tanker jets that carry about 2,600 gallons of retardant, Schwab said. He first saw them fly last year, and contractors are building seven more under a Forest Service contract.

Schwab wasn't sure if it was the first time the DC-10s flew with a BAE-146, but he was sure it was a relatively rare event.

The jets can fly twice as fast as the older P2V heavies with propellers that also flew on the Doce, Hatton added.

All the large tankers dropped a total of 334,520 gallons of retardant on the fire, fire information officer Mark Struble said.

One look at a NASA satellite photo of the fire from space helps tell the heavy air tanker side of the story.

Shot from nearly 500 miles above, red lines of retardant flank Granite Mountain in the NASA photo.

"That paints the picture pretty clear," Sciacca agreed. "I've never seen a picture like that." Schwab also was impressed.

"That's a pretty heavy retardant line, enough to stop a flanking fire," he said. "You've got to be a darn good pilot to fly through that smoke and lay lines like that."

The photo caught the eye of NASA Science Writer Adam Voiland and it was featured on NASA's Earth Observatory webpage at earthobservatory.nasa.gov. Other fire and flood photos also are featured.

Voiland called the Doce fire team to confirm that he was looking at retardant lines.

"We're constantly looking for interesting imagery that NASA satellites are taking," Voiland said. "We just don't usually see that (retardant so clearly), and

I thought it was interesting."

The lack of pine trees in the retardant drop area helped define the line. It also made the retardant more effective, Sciacca said.

10 Tanker owner Rick Hatton said the DC-10s cost only half as much to fly as smaller Type I tankers, while enhancing safety because fewer flights are required.

The DC-10s first joined the national wildland firefighting effort in 2011 and this is the first year the Forest Service has signed one on to an exclusive-use contract, Hatton said. He's hoping the Forest Service will order more.

"There's not an IC on this planet who has used it who doesn't love it," Hatton said. "This is a game changer."

Sciacca is among its fans. "If we would not have had an orchestrated response with aviation assets, it definitely would have been more challenging," Sciacca said.

The tankers follow lead planes and drop as low as 150 feet from the ground. While most heavies can refill at the Prescott Fire Center, the VLATs needed to go to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway because they're too heavy for Prescott's ramp. But the round trip takes only about an hour, Schwab said.

The fire also had an unusual large helicopter called a K-MAX, which has intermeshing rotors. Only 38 exist. They have wooden blades cut from the same tree, fire information officer Bill Morse said.

Helicopters dropped a total of nearly one million gallons of water on the blaze from a pond at the American Ranch subdivision and Granite Basin Lake on the Prescott National Forest, Struble said.

The pond pumps groundwater and springs apparently feed Granite Basin Lake because its level already has recovered, Schwab said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Carnivorous Buttock Fly

@ Hooty Hoo – Your assumption about the individual that was seen leaving the area, as being the one who started the fire, is probably correct. I would hope that the one/s responsible will be found and trust that law enforcement will do their best to investigate and find the responsible party. Many times these people are found and some even do the right thing and eventually come forward. If the responsible party was not doing anything unlawful, they should turn themselves in. Often times self-reporting can make things easier on them. It is too bad that Jeff couldn’t get the plate number, but that is a difficult thing to do in a circumstance as was described in that article. I think that his primary focus was to do everything he could in regards to the biggest issue at hand, the fire itself. I am glad that it was Jeff that was driving by at that time, as I fear that many others would not have stopped to investigate or in some cases even bother calling 911 at that early stage. If he had not driven in to investigate and assess the situation, law enforcement might not have the information that he was able to provide to them.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Doug W


There are a handful of individuals that like to post to these discussions and they usually post a number of times on one thread. Why? Because they are right fighters and like to argue. No matter what you say or how logical you are, they will find something in your words to argue about, they would complain if you hung them with a new rope.

Personally, I have zeroed in on a few of these right fighters and Alan is one of them. No matter how misguided their thinking is, you are not going to change their position and they truly get off on the back-and-forth confrontation. I rarely directly engage these individuals because I know what I say is just going to fuel their radical ideologies and paranoias

I’m not saying these people are bad, just like you and me they have the right to believe however they choose, but I for one am not going to get sucked into the tangled web they weave.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

Thanks for the orientation on the map. I didn't realize it showed AHGC (and I'm no stranger to that entity). I thought that 89 was Williamson Valley Road (which isn't visible in the photo I guess). As to the cause of the fire, I remember that there was a quote from a man who first actually reported seeing the flames from Doce Pit. He said he saw smoke and drove toward it and called 911 and a pickup truck coming away from it had a young man in it with a deer in the headlights look on his fact who almost hit the guy. Obviously that person didn't call 911 and it looked like he was driving away from the newly started fire. My money is on his as the guilty party but he will probably not be found. Too bad the guy couldn't get his plate number.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

"Stay classy, Alan, stay classy (sic)"

This, from someone who calls himself "Carnivorous Buttock Fly."

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Texas Two Step

Mr. Fly, when y'all's been whuped, it's tam t' jes' be still.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Carnivorous Buttock Fly

@ Alan Whitney – Your resume and list of firearms experience is not really relevant to either of the comments (or the points contained therein) that I have posted to your attention. I suppose that you may want me, or others, to take that information to mean that you believe that since you have experience with firearms and/or since you were a cop, that you should be able to shoot wherever or whenever you like, or that you know more than others in regards to firearms or their use, that you’re the authority on the issue. Well Alan, I won’t believe that at all.

I have to say that, in my estimation, with all of your firearms related experience, you sure do come off as someone who could be a much better representative of the mostly good body of people, that are involved in the shooting sports.

I guess that if you don’t want to get used to the temporary closures and restrictions that sometimes take place, Alan, you could always go through the system and try to effect the change that you see fit. Good luck. Or you can continue to whine about it in the reader comment sections here. It’s good to have options. I think I know which one you will choose.

I did not ask any questions of you at all, Alan. I don’t have any for you now either. Sorry to disappoint.

Instead of refuting points or discussing them, or even accepting what has been stated, you resort to name-calling. I guess if you’ve got nothing else. How feeble and boorish.
Stay classy, Alan, stay classy

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Carnivorous Buttock Fly

Correction - Third paragraph, first sentence should read as follows: That you cannot make a connection as to why the gun range that is on leased PNF land (as well as other leased areas) in the direct vicinity of where an approx. 7,000 acre fire just occurred, has been temporarily closed, speaks volumes as to your critical thinking skills.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

C B F ...

Well, let's see what we have here.

I have been a shooter since about 1959. I have been a student of firearms, interior and exterior ballistics, since High School. (!960's).

I was in the Army from 1966 to 1970.

I became a police officer in 1971.

I have been a reloader of rifle and pistol ammunition since 1977.

I became a Police Firearms Instructor in 1979.

Any further questions, clod pate?

Oh. Get used to it.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Carnivorous Buttock Fly

@ Alan Whitney – Sure, you did not allege a plot but I will suggest that you inferred a plot by your mentioning of the usage of air rifles on PNF land, the temporary closing of the gun range and what impact you believe copper/lead projectiles may or may not have relating to combustion downrange or in a test. The same restrictions on target practice on PNF have gone into effect quite frequently (off and on for years) during times where there is extreme fire danger. Get used to it. Be a responsible firearm owner. Your single concern regarding closures, while there are many other closures due to the Doce Fire, seemingly only revolves around the use of firearms.

You have blathered on about copper/lead projectiles on multiple occasions here. Your obsession I suppose, but you seem to ignore the fact that a casing (brass or steel) can also ignite material due to the temperatures that they can acquire when a round is fired and they are ejected from the breech. You also ignore the fact that not everybody shoots copper or lead bullets or shotshells these days.

That you cannot make a connection as to why the gun range that is on leased PNF land (as well as other leased areas) in the direct vicinity of where an approx. 7,000 acre fire just occurred, speaks volumes as to your critical thinking skills. The closing of the range has nothing to do with copper/lead projectiles. The article does not state that the closure of the range has anything to with projectiles of any kind. Call PNF, ask them if the closure of the range has anything to do with copper/lead projectiles.

They closures are in place, in part, due to liabilities. Monsoon season creates possible flood danger in the areas adjacent to the burn area. Rockslides are possible. Personnel will also be in the area to make assessments and cleanup work needs to be performed. Safety issues, Alan.

If you end up making out with a pig, make it a ‘New World’ pig (female of course) and should you decide to set yourself ablaze, you would certainly draw a crowd doing so at the Courthouse Square.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Doug W...

You are so tired. Your mind is filled with cobwebs. You cannot think clearly. Lay down. Go to sleep...

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: MC T

@ Hooty Hoo -- Talking Rock Golf Course is just north northeast of the fire retardant lines (little green lines). The green to the east of the fire area is the Prescott Airport and Antelope Hills Golf Course. The black areas are Watson and Willow Lakes.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

C B F Says:

"@ Alan Whitney – The gun range is closed temporarily because it is a leased area on PNF. "

Um, duh... Yup. I KNOW the facility is on NF land. But I fail to make the connection between ownership of the land and the closure...

I mean, the facility was on NF land BEFORE the closure, right?

And I alleged no plot. I only think that closing the facility was silly, because I doubt that gunfire involving lead/copper projectiles can cause combustion down range.

Note that I did not say it was IMPOSSIBLE. Almost ANYTHING is possible, including starting a fire with evil mental powers. But if such projectiles are a danger, then so would be throwing rocks. Or using a slingshot.

Or setting fire to a fool...

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: @ Hooty

The green area you are referring to is the Antelope Hills golf course. If you look closely you can see the dark line of the airport runway as well. The dark spots are Willow and Watson lakes. You probably have to get pretty close to your screen, but if you look close to the center of the photo, the small dark dot is Granite Basin Lake. It appears to be at the center of an "X". Moving down and to the left of Granite Basin Lake, the light colored dot just below the origin point of the fire is the Dosie Pit. Hope this helps.

David Drever

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Doug W

Incredible Alan. Instead of giving thanks and showing some appreciation for all the work and sacrifice this community showed to get this fire under control, you give criticism just because you can’t play with your little pea shooter at the gun range?

You need to get your priorities straight man.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Rob H

@ Hooty Hoo. The black areas are Watson and Willow Lakes. The green area is Antelope Hills GC by the airport

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: @ Hooty Hoo

I'm somewhat taken aback that you cannot determine the landmarks in this photo.

The green area towards the right side is Antelope Hills Golf Course (the straight line is Highway 89 & you can see Chino Valley at the top of the pic).

The two irregularly shaped dark spots are Willow and Watson Lakes. The bulk of Prescott is to the south of those lakes.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: MAP READER

The Black spots are Watson and willow lakes. Above that is a Green spot that is the Golf course at the airport.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Carnivorous Buttock Fly

@ Alan Whitney – The gun range is closed temporarily because it is a leased area on PNF. It is not an anti-gun conspiracy by the Feds or anyone else. Also closed for the time being is Alto Pit Rec area, Dosie Pit, recreation residences managed under permit by PNF also remain closed (ex: Irons Springs Club). There are other areas closed in that vicinity as well (Granite Basin Lake, area trail-heads, etc.). Closures are in effect per PNF order until July 31st 2013 unless rescinded by PNF prior to that date.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Hooty Hoo,

The little dark spot just to the East of the burn is Granite Basin Lake. Looks like the fire's point of origin is about 0.79 miles South on Docie Pit Road from the intersection with Iron Springs Rd, or 12S 352883 mE, 3828486mN, UTM, WGS 84, if my plot is correct.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

Interesting article, thanks. Someone orient me on the satellite pic (cool). Is that green area near the right edge Talking Rock golf course? If so what are the two irregularly shaped black areas below it? They look like water but I don't know. Thanks

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Poll Question

I love this weeks poll question.....'Should homeowners who live in fire-prone areas pay an annual fee of $150 to cover the costs of firefighting?' I don't think that would even begin to cover the cost.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

OK, enough's enough.

Why close the gun range?

The Prescott NF website tells us that discharging an AIR RIFLE on forest land is prohibited due to the risk of fire.

Will someone please come up for air?

I challenge the Courier to the following:

Get one of your staff gun-enthusiasts... Um, never mind...

Get with a local fire department, and a police agency.

Have the fire department fill a container with dry grass and rocks. Fire different types of projectiles into the box, and achieve combustion. (The fire guys would be right there, with a charged line...)

Now, if no fire starts, it won't mean that starting a fire with lead/copper bullets is IMPOSSIBLE (can't prove a negative), but if a fire DOES start, I'll be convinced, and will ever shut up on this subject. Hell. I'll even kiss a pig on the Courthouse Square. (Must be a female pig, though.)

DO IT!!!

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Common Senseless

"all fires are illegal"
be sure to stock up on your 'fireworks' for the 4th.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Congratulations to all the fire crews and the management team. This is the only large fire in my memory that was well manage and coordinated with air support and brought under control and stopped so quickly. Take a bow. and thanks a lot.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: Thank You

A BIG thank you and God bless to all who helped fight this fire.

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