The Main Stream

Jun 14, 2011 2:13 PM

Monument Fire now a national priority

HEREFORD, AZ - Fire crews are still battling the Monument Fire south of Sierra Vista, which has reached 4,600 acres and is now considered a top priority across the country.

At 6 o'clock this morning, the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team assumed control of the fire, led by Incident Commander Greg Poncin.

"What we really want to do is try and wrap this thing up so it's not going to be burning for the next month. So we're scratching our heads on how we are going to be able to do that," Poncin said.

The fire is so important on the national scale that some hot shot crews and Poncin's Incident Management Team were pulled from the Wallow fire to come to Hereford.

"Here, if we are going to be successful in this really steep, rugged ground, we need crews that are trained and equipped and able to handle this kind of ground," Poncin said.

The fire is 0 percent contained and two out-buildings, a garage and a barn, have been destroyed. 100 other structures are considered threatened.

75 residences are under evacuation mandates, from Coronado Memorial Road west and north to Ash Canyon south of Highway 92. Evacuations are in effect until at least noon today while crews work to restore power to the area.

Though much smaller than the Wallow Fire, the Monument Fire has a complex nature of its own. Firefighters are facing rough conditions through the canyons and some of the flames are now burning across the border into Mexico. The fire line is also close to a number of homes.

To make matters more difficult, flames are tearing through sensitive Coronado National Memorial land that was supposed to be "off limits" to the public.

"They do believe that it was human caused, but who or how, that's something that they'll need to figure out," said Denise Shultz, Chief of Visitor Services for the National Park Service.

As that investigation continues, crews have their eyes on Ash Canyon, hoping to secure the edge of the fire.

"The goal is, we want to keep this thing as small as possible," Poncin said.

Poncin also says firefighter safety is a major concern moving forward, as the Monument Fire continues to be extremely difficult to fight.

A public fire information meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Windemere Hotel and Conference Center, 2047 S Highway 92 in Sierra Vista.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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