Friday, April 28, 2017

Sawmill Fire: Arizona 83 reopens, modern jets replacing old tankers (with video)

SONOITA, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - For people the Sawmill Fire did not force to evacuate one of the biggest impacts was the decision to close Arizona 83, the main connection from I-10 to Sonoita.

But after three days closed, 83 is open again.  

A few miles north of Sonoita, there is a spot on State Road 83 that tells the story of why the road was a dangerous place to be a few days ago.  There’s fire-blackened land on the west side of the road.  On the east side there are orange stains from the fire retardants air tankers dropped to try to make sure the fire did not spread any farther. 

Even though it was quite windy mid-afternoon Thursday, we were still able to feel a trace of heat coming off that burned ground.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says now that the road is open you still need extra caution. In some spots the fire burned the wood posts that hold the guard rails, so the rails will no longer protect you on the curves.

You may also need to watch out for work crews who will be up and down Arizona 83, repairing those rails.

Air tanker planes were grounded from late morning through most of the day because it was simply too windy.

Helicopter were able to keep flying a little longer than the planes because of the way they drop their water.; but for safety and because high winds scatter retardant and make it less effective, the planes were out of action after some morning flights.

Among the fire tankers at Sierra Vista Airport there is a jet that is the the future of firefighting tankers.  It's a converted commuter jetliner.  Planes like it are taking over more of the firefighting duties as older, converted warplanes from World War Two and the Korean War retire.

Story and video:

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