New River Fire

New River Fire produces 8-foot flames near power, gas lines,
DMFM firefighter injured on the scene

By TARA ALATORRE

NEW RIVER – The New River Fire, which burned 844 acres of desert in about 24 hours, sparked on the afternoon of August 21, near mile marker two on New River Road. It rapidly spread north, threatening a concrete plant and high-voltage power and gas lines, which are located west of the Interstate 17 and east of Lake Pleasant.

Driven by high winds and heavy fuels of dried brush, grass and chaparral combined with low humidity from an unproductive monsoon season, the New River Fire was 100 percent contained by Thursday evening on August 22, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (AZDFFM).

Flames reached heights up to 8-feet tall at times, and at one point the fire jumped New River Road. The fire burned 844 acres. 
(Photo courtesy of DMFM)

“At one point[it] jumped the road producing eight-foot flames,” AZDFFM’s spokesperson Tiffany Davila stated in an email to The Foothills Focus on August 23. “Firefighters were able to quickly secure the NE corner which prevented the fire from spreading to nearby structures.”

Davila says, approximately 100 firefighters were on scene working to ensure flames and smoke did not reach nearby KV high-voltage power and gas lines that could have caused serious safety risks for crews, as well as utility outages. Ultimately no structures or utility lines were damaged.

“We requested an air tanker to help ground crews protect infrastructure, including KV lines,” Davila said.

Firefighters work to contain flames aggressively blazing through a remote area, that threatened a nearby cement plant and high-voltage KV power lines located west of the I-17, near New River and Saddle Mountain roads.
(Photo courtesy of DMFM)

Firefighters from various agencies worked to extinguish the fire including: AZDFFM, Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, Phoenix Fire, Peoria Fire and Medical, Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical, El Mirage Fire, Glendale Fire, Surprise Fire, Sun City Fire, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Public Safety Ranger 56 and the air tanker from San Bernardino, Calif.

A Daisy Mountain firefighter, whose name has not been released, was injured on the scene of the New River Fire and was transported to a local hospital in stable condition with a large laceration on his head. He has been released from the hospital and has returned to normal duty, according to Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical (DMFM).

DMFM is not releasing details about how the firefighter was injured or his identity.

(Photo courtesy of DMFM)

Brent Fenton a spokesperson for DMFM told The Focus that crews had a “difficult time gaining access to the fire due to its remote location,” compounded with the huge safety issue posed to ground crews by the fire threatening nearby power and gas lines.

“It is not the fire that creates an issue for the power lines, but the smoke. The smoke can cause the electricity running these high-tension power lines to arc and strike the ground, which obviously creates an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation for firefighters,” Fenton said.

A helicopter assists ground crews at the New River Fire on August 21.
(Photo courtesy of DMFM)

He added that the “no-go zone” for firefighters working near power lines is 300 feet or less, and that firefighters were able to keep the fire nearly a quarter mile from the power lines.

There were also road closures while crews fought to extinguish the aggressive fire, with a large section of New River Road closed west of the I-17 for most ofthe day last Wednesday. Phoenix Police Department was assisting with traffic control.

The New River Fire.
(Photo courtesy of AZDFFM)

At this time the cause of the New River Fire is unknown but presumed to be human caused. It remains under investigation.

(Photo courtesy of AZDFFM)