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Nuttall Complex Fire Anniversary

Published: Jun. 26, 2005 at 9:27 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 8, 2005 at 1:59 PM MST
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Mark Stine KOLD News 13 Reporter
Posted: 6-26-05

Burnt trees on Mount Graham are scars left by the Nuttall Complex fire. It's been one year since firefighters battled the blaze and cabin owners weren't sure if their homes would still stand.

Walls of fire swept over Mount Graham as the Nuttall Fire grew.

"When we couldn't see the immediate news in the valley we'd call our friends who were over here giving us day by day reports," Jay Hoopes said.

When the lightning caused Nuttall and Gibson fires joined, cabin owners believed they could lose everything. "It looked like it was impossible to cover and we just resigned ourselves to the fact that our places were going to disappear," Hoopes told KOLD News 13.

The Hoopes' family cabin in Turkey Flat was built in the 1930's. They were worried their memories would go up in flames with the mountain. "Of course there's family traditions and you just remember your family times with your parents and others. Those experiences are gone if it burned clear over."

Jay's sister was in their cabin when fire fighters made the call to evacuate. "They wanted people out of here, course it was terrifying to them and they wanted people out of here, because they thought the fire would be here in the next minute or two," Hoopes said.

Firefighters put sprinklers around cabins and also surrounded them with aluminum foil type material to keep them from burning.

Their efforts succeeded, now more work is being done to keep homes safe.

In order to keep fires from burning near cabins, the forest service is trying to clear out some trees. They put blue ribbons around trees, the cabin owners are responsible for getting rid of them. "I think most of us are aware more of keeping stuff clean around our cabin. Some of those things created a new view and a new attitude," Hoopes said.

It wasn't just cabins threatened in the complex fire, the observatory on top graham and some communication towers were also at risk. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from over taking them.

One year later, his cabin still stands, and Jay says Turkey Flat's still great. But over in other areas, it's still black and burned. "It'll take a few years before you can hike through it, so that's not better, but in time it will be," Hoopes told KOLD.

29,000 acres burned in the fire, but Hoopes says the mountain he grew up loving, is still a great place. "Yeah, it's still Mt. Graham and we're thankful it's still here. We're hopeful that burn will not be that dramatic again, but there's nothing that guarantees that."

And even though the scars are still evident, already, signs of life are popping up amongst the black and burned trees.