Today, as Arizona embarks upon a highly expected, rough wildland fire season due to an abundance of precipitation throughout our winter season, I wanted to share a special photo shoot I did with a newly forged friendship with two horses–Rio and Chediski. I was reminded by the actions of my brother-in-law, whom is currently on his annual participation in the Arizona Wildland and Incident Management Academy in Prescott, AZ. A couple of friends of mine, Deanne and Dan, wanted to memorialize two of their greatest treasures by photography, and asked me to come out to their ranch and take these shots. First, I want to give you a little background:
Back on June 18, 2002, a wild fire burned in east-central Arizona and was not controlled until July 7. It was named the Rodeo-Chedeski fire and was the worst forest fire in Arizona’s recorded history until June 14, 2011, when the Wallow Fire surpassed Rodeo-Chediski as the largest fire in Arizona history. Several local communities, some of the most beautiful areas in Arizona’s high country, including Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, Heber-Overgaard, Claysprings and Pinedale, were threatened and had to be evacuated.
Initially there were two separate fires, the first being the Rodeo fire of which began near the Rodeo Fairgrounds on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and authorities later found out that it was started by an arsonist. By early evening on the first day, around 1,200 acres were ablaze as increasing wind speeds fed the fire to over 2,000 acres. Then the Chediski Fire was reported to have started on the morning of June 20 near Chediski Peak, northwest of Cibecue. It had been started by a stranded motorist trying to signal a news helicopter. This fire spread rapidly across this vast area and in total, over 30,000 people had to be quickly evacuated, many with less than an hour’s notice! The two fires merged into one and consumed over 300,000 acres of woodland. Approximately 400 homes were destroyed throughout these areas, and many people’s animals were displaced or lost.
Rio and Chediski were two of those animals rescued from the fire. Chediski actually incurred burns from the fire when she was trapped by flames that encroached the stables she lived in. It takes courage and special people like Deanne and Dan, to provide a new home and a new beginning for horses, such as Rio and Chediski.
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PHOTOGRAPHY: Jason Beal, J Creations Photography
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