As the sun sets over the Superstition Mountains, it’s clouded by the smoke of the massive Woodbury Fire.
As of Monday, the Woodbury Fire has consumed more than 112,000 acres and is about 25% contained. It’s currently the largest fire in the country. Mother Nature is playing the biggest role on how this fire progresses.
“She’s thrown a lot of curve balls. It’s been very hot, very dry. The Superstitions are very, very rough, straight up, straight down, rugged country,” said Craig Daugherty, an operation’s section chief on this fire who has been on the front lines of the fire ground.
Daugherty says the fire continues to grow because it’s being fed by fuel it’s never had.
“Historically that [terrain] didn’t burn because there wasn’t a grass crop. A lot of it was more desert type fuels. Well, this year there’s an amazing grass crop because of all the moisture you have received this year," said Daugherty. "And that given fuel for that fire to burn through. So, it’s covered a lot more ground.”
Fire crews are working day and night to strategically “box in” this fire with the creation of stopping-point barriers by prepping the area around the fire with controlled burns, using fire retardant and cutting back brush in order to eliminate the fuel source.
“The firefighters out there, they’re not just sitting around waiting for it to come to them. They’re prepping those areas. They’re prepping those roads. So, they’re doing a lot of work in preparation for the fire to come,” said Daugherty.
Despite the fire’s enormity, fire crews say their plan is working.
“It is successful. We’re keeping in our “biggest box” that we have right now. We’ve protected the structures and the values at risk. There’s a lot of values at risk around this fire, and so far we’ve been successful in protecting those values,” said Daugherty.
The biggest cause for concern is unpredictable wind, which can be detrimental to any fire. While rain would be welcomed, fire crews say they aren’t depending on monsoon rains to get this fire under control.