About 100 people gathered at the Mayer Recreational Center to receive information and updates regarding the Crown King Lane 2 fire. Their mood? Grateful. Appreciative.
Prescott National Forest Supervisor Alan Quan started off by thanking the residents, saying, "We've given a lot of credit as to why Crown King is still there, but I think a lot of the reason as to why Crown King is still there is sitting in this room right now. When the Chief asked you folks to evacuate, when the Sheriff asked you folks to evacuate, you promptly evacuated and that evacuation helped out tremendously in this incident... Take a look around, take a look at yourselves and recognize that you are a large part of why Crown King is still there."
But, Quan also cautioned them as he pointed to a probability map, saying, "You can see that there is an 80% probability that there is still a threat. This is without management. This is still a very, very severe situation."
County Supervisor Thurman Passes on More Information
When Supervisor Thom Thurman spoke, he thanked members of the greater community, such as Prescott Valley, who has offered heavy equipment, and the Mayer Recreational group who provided the meeting place. He even noted that the Mayer Fire Department provided the PA system. One announcement he made was for a fund that has been set up -
Crown King Fire Relief Fund
Donations can be made at the
Bank of the West
In addition, Thurman extended an offer from the Arizona Revue for the evacuees to attend a complimentary show on either July 4th or 5th.
And, finally, Thurman brought good, but belated news: A Homeland Security Grant that Crown King Fire Chief Steve Lombardo had applied for months earlier had been approved in the amount of $22, 000.
APS Representative Mike Johnsen brought even better news to the residents of Crown King when he said, "On Monday, we turned off the electricity at 4 pm. We were allowed to have our crews go in again at 1 pm yesterday, so now, as of 8:30 this morning, we were able to restore service to Crown King. Your lights are back on."
Johnsen also said that the power to Horse Thief Basin is still off, and will likely remain off for a while because there was greater damage to the lines feeding that area.
Current Update as of Wednesday, July 2, 4 pm
Bee Day, from the Forest Service gave an update on the current situation. "Around Crown King, we are actually looking very good. A concern of ours is on the West Side along the 192 Road. We have paid particular attention to that to try to contain the fire on the east side of that road. We've got crews in there today, the fire has not damaged the road, so they've been doing some burnout operations. We've also been looking at some dozer lines - with all the switch back in there, it's very difficult for us to burn out - we're going to try to find a way to tie it in to back of the 7-11 road. So, we're currently working on that. There is a threat that it could cross and come back up on this side, and we certainly don't want that to happen."
Day elaborated on an earlier incident from the monsoon that came in on Tuesday evening, "The wind took it - 20-40 mph winds and shot it straight to the south up Horse Thief Canyon and was threatening Horse Thief summer homes and those facilities in there. So, last night, the night shift was able to go in there...The crews did an outstanding job... in getting that secure again as of today, that whole area and the facilities - we feel really good about that."
"However, I do want to make you aware, there is still quite a bit of smoke going on, and that's the fire pushing out to Twin Peaks," Day warned. "It still could go to the North, and that's a concern of ours in that it's still the main access into Crown King. We're trying to get this into the wilderness so it's not going to be a concern. The winds play havoc on the fire."
Commander Tony Scaccia Brings the Truth
Incident Commander Tony Scaccia stood up to make an update as the crowd broke into applause. He grinned as he said, "Here we are again. There's been just a tremendous amount of work going on up there. Those firefighters are working around the clock, 14-16 hours a day trying to save your communities, and so far they've been successful. They have busted their tails up there... You heard Alan say there's a long-term projection, and you heard Bee say about the west side and the north side, and we're not out of the woods yet."
Scaccia turned to the subject that the crowd was most anxious about, "I bet two-thirds of the audience wants to know when they can go home, right? Well, you can't right now. You have been patient with us... we're working on the partnership - APS getting power lines and keeping the power going up there... We are trying to get you back in your house. But I'm not going to put you back in your house and then evacuate you again. I don't want to put you through that stress. My commitment to you is that I will get you back into your houses as soon as it's safe, as soon as I can secure those lines and we feel that when you go back in, you don't have to come back out."
"It does look a little different, but there's a tremendous amount of work," Scaccia said. "And your Chief, Steve Lombardo, he's up there ahd he's going all the time, 'get my residents back, get my residents back. I promised them if they evacuated orderly, I'd get them back in.'" The listening crowd smiled and clapped in appreciation.
Scaccia nodded. "He's up there beating on us pretty hard, let me tell you... But he understands what's going on. We're going to try to continue fighting the fire, there's lots of challenges with the terrain and the topography. We're hoping that by the middle of next week, we'll see a heavy monsoon pattern reestablish and that's going to help us out. Does that mean that you're going to go back in? No, but I will - my commitment to you is to try to get you back in as quick as we can. We have a lot of quality fire fighters doing a lot of work, me and Darryl are up there, every day. They're fighting the fire, they're coordinating efforts and they're doing one heck of a job."
Crown King's Fire Chief Lombardo Gets a Standing Ovation
Suddenly at that point, the crowd burst into thunderous applause, and the word, 'Chief' was whispered from person to person. Chief Steve Lombardo had walked in, and the folks in the room stood up cheering and clapping with tears in their eyes. Lombardo looked like he didn't know exactly what to do, but with a weary smile, asked, "How's everybody doing?"
"Better now that we've seen you," someone in the crowd shouted. Everyone laughed.
Lombardo gave a brief update, "Things are looking pretty good right now. We've been doing a lot of mop up around the houses... things are looking pretty good up there in town itself - there's still a lot of fire all the way around us on the east side and on the south side."
Then he asked the question that was obviously of primary importance to him, "I just want to know if you guys are doing ok?"
They all nodded and said they were fine. Lombardo seemed relieved, as if his load had just lightened a little.
At that point, there was a question and answer period. The first question shouldn't have been a surprise, but it definitely showed the character of these mountain folks. "Are there any agencies that can use volunteers?"
When the questioner was informed that help was needed in walking the dogs in the animal shelter, she nodded. "I'll be there. I know every one of them already."
There was a discussion about what food would still be safe and what needed to be discarded. Supervisor Thurman stood up and admitted that he hadn't thought about it, but said he'd get some rolloffs up as soon as they were allowed to get back in and start cleaning up. Another resident reminded them that they might be covered for food losses under their home insurance policy.
When asked about injuries, Scaccia replied, "Injuries? We did fly a fire fighter off the hill today that was not a fire injury, it was a medical condition. We've had one vehicle get too close to some rocks and pop some tires - imagine that in Crown King."
Under the Very Best Conditions, When...?
But, the hardest question Scaccia had to answer, was probably the last. It was asked nicely, but it demonstrated the foremost goal in everyone's mind. "Under the best conditions, what would you guys foresee to go back home? Under the very best conditions.Very, very, very best."
Scaccia hesitated as he stood up, but he answered directly, "If I say something, I know you're all going to hold me to it." Shaking his head, he then said, "What I'm shooting for, is that we're going to have another meeting on Sunday, is what I'm planning for, and I would love to be able to tell you at that meeting that you're allowed to come back into your community. That's what we're working diligently to try to get to that point. So, bear with me through Sunday, and when this group comes to see you next, we hope to have that information for you."