Forest firefighters help battle epic blaze

What began as a small unattended campfire on May 29 has turned into the biggest blaze in Arizona history. Recently helping in the battle against this epic blaze were forest firefighters Don Weis of St. Marys and Bill Maiers of Johnsonburg.The pair recently returned from a 17-day stint out West, from June 8-24, where they were among three Pennsylvania crews sent out to assist with the firefighting efforts."A fire of this size will need resources from all over the country," Weis said. To date, the "Wallow Five" fire, named after the Bear Wallow Wilderness area in which it started, has encompassed nearly 530,000 acres, or nearly 828 square miles, and is currently 82 percent contained. It has burned through the White Mountains area in northeast Arizona, destroying 32 homes. Upon arriving in Albuquerque, N.M., Weis and Maiers were assigned to the PA-3 crew, with Weis acting as squad boss and Maiers as one of the crew's three chainsaw operators.The crew was bused to Reserve, N.M. to brush roads and trails for preparation for the fire's arrival into the nearby town of Luna. After several days, the crew was then bused to Horseshoe Lake Camp and within a few hours of arriving, were instructed to tear down at 7 p.m. and relocate to the southwest end of the fire. By midnight, the crew had arrived deep in the heart of the fire inside the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where they set up at the Point of Pines base camp. It was here the crew would finish out their assignment.Pick up a copy of the Friday, July 1, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.