About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

June 8, 2011

Coconino County Sheriff's SAR Called to Assist with the Wallow Fire

It's now the second largest wildfire in Arizona history, having burned more than 486 square miles as of Tuesday (so more by now) and still moving 5 to 8 miles per day. That's almost as big as the city of Phoenix! 2,500 firefighters from several western states and some as far away as New York are working to contain the blaze, which is burning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Springerville, Arizona. "The blaze has consumed 311,481 acres since it started May 29. It has been propelled by wind gusts of more than 60 mph." (Arizona Daily Sun)

Yesterday, our search and rescue team received a call to respond for an extended mission from Thursday through Saturday or Sunday, to assist with road blocks and perhaps other assignments in connection with the Wallow Fire. Our Coordinator said we'll probably be asked to do the same multiple times over the next few weeks.

See:  Northern Arizona Fire Personnel Help Fight Wallow Fire, Others to find out who else is responding from Coconino County.

In other team news....
Last Saturday, several of us set up a booth at the Outdoor Festival at Mormon Lake, co-hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Mormon Lake Lodge. The day was filled with activities, including archery, fishing and horseback rides, and there were information booths from a variety of exhibitors and live animals from the Game and Fish Department's Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center.

The theme of our SAR booth was the ten essentials of hiking, with the ten essential categories being navigation, illumination, insulation, nutrition, hydration, shelter (which, in our case, was as simple as a rain poncho or an All Weather space blanket with grommets so it could be used as a tarp), tools and repair, sun protection, first aid, and (although it feels strange to say so right now, given the first part of this post) fire-starting.

Coconino County SAR members teach children and adults about the ten essentials.

We gave out P-SAR cards ("P" being for Preventative), which list the ten essentials and other hiking and preparedness tips. We also had examples of those ten essentials. On the one hand, we had a large Zip-loc baggie with a condensed version of these items, which would be an appealing size and weight for a lot of people, adults and children, who go for recreational dayhikes. We also had a few of our Search and Rescue packs, for more extensive examples of ten essential gear, which would be appropriate for longer hikes and/or more extreme weather.

A lot of children visited our booth, and they seemed to really enjoy going through the list on the P-SAR cards, reading off each item and then searching for it in the Zip-Loc baggie. Some wanted to see if they could lift my backpack. And some also got a little quiz. We ask, "If you got lost, what would you do?" and heard a lot of really good answers about ways to signal for help. Many eventually got around to the main answer we were looking for: sit down and stay put. Or "hug a tree" as we like say. We also asked the kids what they can do to prevent getting lost in the first place. (Parents seemed happy to hear that question.)

So it was a good day for SAR community education. We were invited to return to the festival next year.

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