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Amateur Radio Operators Provide Support for Arizona/New Mexico Wildfires

06/20/2011

The Wallow Fire, which began in Eastern Arizona on May 29, burned across the state line into New Mexico on June 11. On Sunday, high winds and low humidity helped the half-million acre fire to easily jump its containment lines. According to Charlie Christmann, K5CEC, New Mexico Amateur Radio operators are near the fire lines, providing updates to the State Emergency Operations Center via the MegaLink repeater system. Christmann is an ARRL Public Information Officer in Sandoval County, New Mexico.

Fire officials said Monday that all Arizona communities appeared to be safe for the moment, though a threat remained for the Arizona towns of Greer, Alpine and Nutrioso, as well as Luna, New Mexico, just across the Arizona line. Fire crews from the Pacific Northwest were working to save Luna that faces the active eastern side of the Wallow Fire. Fire officials issued an evacuation order for Luna on Sunday afternoon, and evacuations remain in effect in the Blue River area in Arizona. A pre-evacuation alert continues in Arizona’s Apache County for Greens Peak, Hidden Meadows Lodge and the surrounding areas.

Christmann told the ARRL that three hams -- Larry Bliemeyer, KE5VGM, Michael Scales, K5SCA, and New Mexico Department of Homeland Security Emergency Manager Jeff Crum, KB5SFV -- are providing updates from the fire to the New Mexico Command Center in Reserve, located about 20 miles southeast of Luna. Don Scott, N5UJT, is at the New Mexico State EOC in Santa Fe, helping to coordinating state resources.

As of Monday, June 20, 12 people have been injured in the fire. According to the US Forest Service, the cause of the fire is under investigation, but initial reports claimed the fire was set by people. Although the fire is 51 percent contained, it is still affecting the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the Gila National Forest, the San Carlos Indian Reservation and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. More than 3500 firefighters are involved in putting out the fire, which has ravaged more than 519,000 acres.



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