Slide Fire: 1 Year Later... Residents Reflect on Evacuation
This week, KNAU is airing a series of stories marking one year since the Slide Fire ripped through Oak Creek Canyon. We're sharing a collection of perspectives and experiences from some of the people closest to the first; investigators, fire crews, researchers, and evacuees. Hundreds of people fled under evacuation orders as the wildfire raced up the narrow canyon. In today's installment of KNAU's series The Slide Fire: 1 Year Later, residents of Oak Creek reflect on what it was like to leave that day not knowing how long they'd be gone, or what they'd be coming home to. Arizona Public Radio's Justin Regan produced this audio postcard.
Hi my name is Carol Watters my Husband David and I run Hoel’s Indian Shop in Oak Creek Canyon. The family’s been here since 1945, and Dave and I have been here since 1983.
I was at the creek with my nephew and we were playing at the creek and actually I noticed smoke up North. Yeah, we had our five year old nephew with us. And my Mother-in-Law who’s with a walker so we waited around until probably most people were evacuated. So I said ‘I’m leaving. I’m going North’, and that’s how it went.
Seeing helicopters flying around, it looked really bad.
Hi, my name is Tom McBeth, I am the office manager at Forest Houses Resort.
I was standing on the foot bridge with one of the guests chatting when I noticed there was a lot of smoke in the air. So I went down to the phone, the office phone, to call the fire department called them and got an automated message that immediately told me to evacuate the premises.
There was one house at the end of the property, the resident’s car was there but there was nobody in the house. They were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until about maybe 5 or 6 hours later that they finally returned my phone message. They were eating dinner when the fire broke out, and that’s why their car was here and they were nowhere to be found, so it was fortunately a very happy ending with that. Because you have to realize that AB Young trail had they been on it was going on towards the top of that mountain where later it was discovered it was one of the most badly burnt areas in the canyon. They would have been incinerated if that’s where they had been.
Hello, I’m Taylor Swain my wife Megan and I are the managers of the lodge now, Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge.
We had about thirty minutes from the time we smelled smoke and saw the column of smoke to the time we were being evacuated. You always think that you see people in those scenarios and think that you might react a certain way, but until you’re there, I guess you don’t really know. And there’s not a lot of time to think in that situation.
I’ve lived and camped in this area a long time, I know how dry the fuel gets around the forest. I’ve always known that things can go up pretty fast. But until you see it, you can’t really conceive of it, there were 30 and 40 foot columns of flame at the back end of the orchard as we were driving out.
A lot of the news reporters came and toured the property and of course wanted to see the most drastic burn areas and then after monsoon started they were here immediately to see if we had flood issues, whereas we didn’t here as much about the fact that the canyon had survived. So I think they missed some of the good parts of the story.