San Juan Fire: Forest thinning worker talks about what is at risk if fire shifts direction

As the San Juan Wildfire rages on, crews from the White Mountain Stewardship project have flashbacks to the Wallow fire.

The White Mountain Stewardship Project is in charge of thinning homes and towns for the past nine years.

Dwayne Walker heads the crews out in the field, but for now is watching from his home in worry anytime the winds push the San Juan fire East or West.

“We have a lot of logs which is west of the fire and brush piles we were removing to the energy plant in snowflake,”  explained Walker.

Walker said there are about a thousand semi-truck loads of small trees and brush or, nearly 300,000 small trees, between two and sixteen inches in diameter.

It’s enough to help feed the appetite of the fiery beast now raging near Vernon, Arizona.

If the fire pushes towards Green’s Peak, Walker said it could take out millions of dollars worth of communication towers.

“The homeland security is on there, the highway patrol bounces off there for the state of Arizona, AT&T is up there. There is 500 million dollars sitting on top of that mountain,” said Walker.

But in the other direction is $130 million dollars of infrastructure that includes the area’s livelihood of saw mills and lumber companies, he said.

As long as the fire burns NW, it will burn in already thinned forest area, which Walker says was proven to work in the 2011 Wallow fire when the towns of Eager and Alpine were saved.

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