Despite an all day rain event a couple days earlier, about 2:45AM, a wildfire broke out in the lower Colorado River watershed north of Yuma, AZ. We happened to be camping less than a mile away from where the fire broke out.
By sunrise, the fire was burning strong. It had been windy overnight but the wind calmed for a few hours just as the fire started, allowing it to get burning. The wind was kicking in as the sun came up.
The wind increased from southwest to about 10mph, pushing the fire across the Colorado River floodplain. The fire was only about 150 yards wide, but moving across the marshy terrain like a tornado of fire.
From far too much experience with wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and southern California, we know that dark smoke is combustible material burning and white smoke is what happens when water is put on the fire. This fire is burning across the backwaters of the Colorado River; mostly reed-like plants floating on top of the water. This fire is inaccessible by vehicle, the white smoke is the burning plants and trees extinguished by river water.
It seems likely this fire was started by humans. The fire seems to have started at the end of a dirt road. Swamps don’t usually start burning on their own. Fireworks or open fire is most likely the cause.
Information on the fire seemed to be somewhat inaccurate.
Fueled by a steady 10mph wind with stronger gusts, by that afternoon, the fire had burned a steady path across the Colorado River backwater. Didn’t stop the bass fishermen from getting a close look at the fire while they fished for the big one.
By sunset, the wind continued to blow and the fire continued to burn. The fire had gone from one large fire to a number of smaller fires due to the water dividing the combustible fuel sources.
The fires continued to burn until the early hours of the next morning when the wind changed the direction of the fire and blew it back over the area that had just burned and many of the fires went out. Hot spots still remained and the wind had changed direction yet again and was blowing up to 20mph.
By early afternoon, the wind had picked up and was blowing 15mph with gusts around 20mph or more, igniting several hot spots and the fire was burning again.
At sunset, the strong winds continued and the fire was again burning into the second night.
The night was overcast, the wind subsided and early the following morning, there was light rain. At sunrise, the fire was reduced to a couple hot spots in an area with more water than burnable plants and trees.
After burning about three days, the fire was nearly burned out and fire crews were mopping up hot spots and assessing damage.