With fire season in full swing, all pilots, but especially backcountry pilots, need to be diligent in their pre-flight awareness of fires and related TFR’s. In many of the National Forests, including our USFS region 3, AZ and NM, our backcountry airstrips are being used as staging areas for firefighting efforts. You may recall a few years ago, Air Tractors made 24AZ, Pleasant Valley (Young), their home for a week or so for a local fire. This month, Grapevine (88AZ) has already served the USFS firefighting crews as a home for the Chinook with a water bucket for the Sawtooth fire. There are a few backcountry locations where the USFS type 1 aircraft can operate from, and Grapevine is a great one given its location on the shores of Roosevelt Lake. USFS Fire & Aviation officer Travis Stanfill contacted us to ask our help to get the word out to the GA community, since NOTAMS can be difficult to post for an airstrip charted as private, as all of our backcountry airstrips are here in AZ. Please like or follow the APA Facebook page and check for news on these airstrips, as we are diligent to post there as soon as we have any word from government agencies about a use of one of our backcountry airstrips.
As seen above, on 6/4 the TFR for the Sawtooth fire on the Tonto National Forest was quite large, but there is no pictorial indication that Grapevine, just to the northeast, was in fact closed and being used by the USFS aircraft. Whenever you see a TFR in the vicinity of a backcountry airstrip, it is probably a wise and safe move to avoid any nearby backcountry airstrips.