The news was not encouraging at the first Community Meeting for the Gladiator Fire.
Incident Commander, Joe Reinarz explained the seriousness of the situation to anxious residents and concerned citizens in Mayer last night at a community briefing.
"This is what we're dealing with right now... Yesterday the fire looked about like this," Reinarz said, demonstrating with his hand. "...we've had some growth overnight, in these areas.
"today it's grown right here..." he said, pointing again to the map. "What we're worried about here is that it might come around. It's not moving around a lot in the Lane 2 Fire area, but we're watching that real closely. We don't want it to sneak around and go back towards Crown King."
" This is our problem," he said, pointing to a section of fire activity on the map jutting to the northwest. "The winds that we had pushed it north and a little bit west, up into this area along the ridge line. It's called a ridge line because it's straight along that area. What it's been doing, is it's throwing spots. What you have here, is this is one huge bowl. And it's come up here, and our biggest fear is that this fire is throwing spots to the bottom of the canyon. And if that fire gets established at the bottom of the canyon, and we fully expect it will, what will happen over the next couple of days, it will become a terrain driven fire. That means it's going to run up hill. In about 1-4 days, it will probably be right up to the [Tower] road. We're trying to prep the area between Wildflower and Tower, but I'm not sure it's going to be enough."
"We're not out of the woods yet. We're pretty solid on the fireline that started on Sunday, but we're not out of the woods yet for Crown King," Reinarz said.
"What's really in your favor is if you guys have done your homework," Reinarz said. "And cleaned out gutters, cleaned out things around your houses... defensible space around your houses. It's a little late now, but those are the things that really help us."
One person asked, "I'm going to get my daughter out of there. How does she come home? How does she get down here?"
"It is probably not going to follow any road. When it comes out, it'll come with a vengeance. We're talking possible 300 foot flames. This is possible, this is worst-case scenario stuff. Your daughter needs to get in her car... the sheriff will help her. We're not stopping her or anyone, we're welcoming people out."
Another lady said, with a break in her voice, "What you're predicting, will come straight over our house."
"I'm the bearer of bad news, and I'm sorry," Reinarz replied. "Those houses up there are very susceptible... I'm, I'm sorry."
One question was what the community of Mayer could do. "The best thing... all our communities can do is to help each other, support each other. Nothing has happened yet, and there is still some hope. But, we need to be delivering the news, so we wouldn't be telling you after the fact," Betty Matthews said. "There is some hope, the weather could shift, something could change. We don't know. The best thing you can do, is donate to the Red Cross, help the people that are evacuated... If we get good news, we want to give you the good news. But we want to also give you the straight talk about what's going on."
"My wife and I have two homes up there. We have a... home and we have the 115-year old Carrington House," one man said. "None of that is of importance as compared to your lives."
A Community Pulls Together
After the meeting, community members gathered together with hugs and tears, some looking shell shocked and frightened; others taking on the role of comforter. One of the Crown King residents stood up and said that it was her house that caught on fire, and she was so sorry. Afterwards, her neighbors and friends gathered around her in support.
Another Crown King resident said that he and his wife had two residences in Crown King, one which is 115 years old, but that the safety of the firefighters and other people in support was of much greater importance than his homes. Applause broke out.
The uncertainty was draining on many of the Crown King residents, and obviously the less-than-positive news was difficult to hear.
One girl said they had done all they could for defensible space, but she didn't know how her house was faring. But, despite the tears in her eyes, she said she knew the firefighters were doing all they could do.
It's Time To Get Out
If there was an overarching theme to the Tuesday night meeting, it was the importance of getting folks out of Crown King as soon as possible.
"I really encourage folks that are hunkering down, to really think about getting out and helping us with an orderly evacuation," Matthews said. "Versus when the flames come across Tower Mountain - it's going to scare people."
According to the estimates that Matthews heard, some 40-45 people were still in Crown King and the surrounding areas.
About the Firefighters
Fire fighters are arriving from all over. We were able to speak briefly to a group of 21 that had just arrived after a long bus trip from Idaho. See the interview at the end of the video.
If you're a resident of Crown King, or an evacuee, the Red Cross would like you to register so friends and family members that are out of town can see you are ok.
1. Visit redcross.org/safeandwell
2. Register yourself as "safe and well"
3. Search for your loved ones' posted messages
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger photo.
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