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Fire, Flood, Mud

The glow of backfires hemming in the Seeley Fire light the western horizon on July 4. East Price is in the foreground of this photograph.
A black flow of ash, earth and fire debris covers a stretch of SR 31 in Huntington Canyon Sunday afternoon.
As black and forbidding as the River Styx of myth, the debris flow discolors Engineer Canyon after Sunday's thunderstorm.

Sun Advocate associate editor

Seeley Fire almost over, but aftermath is not pretty

A torrential thunderstorm dumped a quarter-inch of rain on the Seeley Fire Sunday, tamping down the flames and giving a glimpse of what the landscape will look like without its protective ground cover.

Black mud flowed onto SR 31 in Huntington Canyon and choked Huntington Creek - a Blue Ribbon fishery - with debris flows.

"I had been asked if the fire could kill a lot of fish, and I said, 'No, unless there's a flash flood later,'" said Justin Hart, assistant regional fisheries manager with the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Then, bam, bam, the worst thing that could happen, happened."

The left fork of Huntington Canyon suffered heavy fire damage on the north slope, but the good news - so far - is that the rainfall has not been severe enough to cause debris flow in that section, Hart said.

Mud Creek also probably lost some fish and debris entered Scofield Reservoir. However, Hart explained that submerged vegetation could act as a filter of sorts and that lake fish have plenty of places to relocate if water quality gets bad in places. Mud Creek can be repopulated by lake fish.

Ash and charred debris are now scattered over about 76 square miles of western Carbon and Emery counties.

As of Monday, the Eastern Arizona Incident Management Team reported that the aggressive fire was 60 percent contained. The fire had been halted south of Clear Creek, although the evacuation order remained in place.

Home and cabin owners may return to Scofield, but SR 96 is open only from US 6 to the south end of town. A roadblock was still keeping the road to Clear Creek closed.

On Sunday, the Miller's Flat Road was reopened all the way from Fairview to Orangeville. However, highways 31 and 264 from Fairview were closed. Consumers Road was slated to reopen Monday evening.

The cost of suppressing the Seeley Fire approached $6.4 million Monday morning.

About 600 fire fighters continued to work on containment lines in Cox Canyon, Mud Creek and Magazine Canyon, as well as mop-up and patrol operations over the entire perimeter.

Ground teams were still receiving aerial support from helicopter bombardment in the steep canyon areas.

The total containment date is still estimated for Sunday.

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