Large Ariz. Wildland Fire Is 90 Percent Contained

May 23, 2013
After scorching about 3,200 acres, the Island Lake Fire is about 90 percent contained, according to fire officials.

May 23--The Island Lake Fire, which has scorched about 3,200 acres of vegetation along both sides of the Colorado River on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and Picacho State Recreation Area, was about 90 percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon.

"We just don't feel completely comfortable calling it 100 percent contained yet," said Lori Cook, Bureau of Land Management fire information officer, about the fire that has been burning about 25 miles north of Yuma since about 1 p.m. Sunday.

Cook said even though the fire is nearly contained, there are vegetation pockets within its perimeter that could still ignite over the next several days. Also high temperatures, which have been in excess of 100 degrees, and wind gusts could also cause problems.

Wildland firefighters continued to hold and improve the firelines and monitored the perimeter of the fire throughout Wednesday. BLM has not speculated on how much time will be needed to bring the fire under full control and will continue to battle it Thursday. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Cook explained that a variety of hazards still exist even after a wildfire is contained. For example, the ground and burned vegetation remain hot, and burned trees can fall without warning. Smoldering stump holes may also be present. She added that fire can smolder underground for several weeks, and stepping into a hidden stump hole may cause severe burns.

About 60 people from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the BLM and various state and local agencies are battling the fire. They include ground, water, and air crews.

Cook said no structures are threatened at this time, but four shade structures, an outhouse and one fence in the Picacho State Recreation Area have been destroyed. One firefighter with the Arizona State Forestry Division also became overheated and was evacuated to Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

For public safety reasons, all shoreline, side channels, backwaters and lakes on the Colorado River between Island Lake and Catfish Cove have been closed due to the fire. Picacho State Recreation Area is also closed. The main river channel, however, remains open.

These closures, Cook said, will remain in effect until further notice. For information regarding Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, call 783-3371. For information about Picacho State Recreation Area, call 1-760-996-2963.

The BLM has also announced fire restrictions on 2.5 million acres of public lands in western Arizona and southeastern California along the Colorado River. Beginning Wednesday, fire and smoking restrictions are being enforced on all public lands within the BLM Yuma and Lake Havasu Field Office jurisdictions. These restrictions are similar to those being implemented in other areas in Arizona.

"Due to the mild winter and low precipitation levels, we have very dry vegetation in the area that will become fuel for wildfires as temperatures rise and humidity falls," stated fire management officer Mike Trent. "The restrictions will continue until conditions warrant the lifting of the restrictions."

The BLM is asking the public to use extreme caution when visiting public lands this summer. Currently there are no plans to close any recreation sites along the Colorado River area to public use. The public is reminded that the following acts are prohibited until further notice:

--Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal or wood stove. Campfires and charcoal are permitted in developed recreation sites or improved sites where agency-built fire rings or grills are provided.

--Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, within a developed or improved recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least six feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

--Welding or the use of any torch or metal cutting or grinding implement.

Violations of these restrictions are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment of not more than 12 months. Imperial, Cibola, Bill Williams, and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges continue to enforce year-round fire restrictions.

For fire restriction information in Arizona and New Mexico, call 1-877-864-6985 or visit

James Gilbert can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.

Copyright 2013 - The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

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