Crew captain explains why Woodbury Fire has been so difficult to fight

Jun 25, 2019, 4:54 AM | Updated: 10:04 am

(Joe Barreras Photo)...

(Joe Barreras Photo)

(Joe Barreras Photo)

PHOENIX — Perryville Fire Crew Captain Joe Barreras said he and his team have been on the ground battling the Woodbury Fire burning east of Phoenix since day one.

“We were out on the Woodbury Fire from approximately an hour after it started,” he said.

The human-caused fire began burning about 5 miles northwest of Superior on June 8. As of Monday, it had grown to 115,720 acres, making it the sixth-largest in state history. The fire was 48% contained.

Barreras, who’s in his 21st season battling wildfires, leads Arizona’s only all-female fire crew made up of 20 inmates from the Perryville prison. The crew spent 15 days battling the fire.

He said the fire was in the Superstition Mountains when they were first deployed. The terrain in that area is steep, rocky and desolate – making their job difficult.

The grass that grew as a result of record rain during the winter also made it difficult.

“We have a carpet of grass blanketing most of the desert this year,” Barreras said. “So instead of patchy fuels in most of these areas, we have a fine fuel that carries fire throughout the desert landscape.”

He added they also had to watch out for rattlesnakes and scorpions while they were out battling the fire.

Despite the Woodbury Fire’s size, there have been no reports of structures being lost. Barreras said he credits the work his crew and others have done.

“I believe the team is doing a good job in mitigating and taking care of the values at risk,” he said.

The Perryville Fire Crew is one of a dozen wildland firefighting crews in Arizona that are made up of inmates. Each crew has 20 inmates who are considered low-level offenders from state prisons.

The crews are supervised under the direction of the state Department of Forestry and Fire Management along with Arizona Department of Corrections staff.

Barreras said it’s unclear if his crew will return to battle the Woodbury Fire. But he said they’re ready to help if needed.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Brett Shanahan, 40, shot and killed himself after officers fired at him in Gilbert on Jan. 21, 2024...

Body cam video captures Gilbert police shooting suspect before suicide

Police released body cam footage Tuesday of Gilbert police officers shooting a suspect who died by suicide in front of them earlier this year.

11 minutes ago

Split image of the mugshot of a heavily tattooed Joseph E. Lopez on the left and officer Morgan Bul...

Gang member who shot Phoenix police officer sentenced to 25 years in prison

A gang member who shot a police officer in south Phoenix last year was sentenced to 25 years in prison, authorities announced Monday.

1 hour ago

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake speaks with reporters after leaving the office of Sen...

Kevin Stone

Arizona Republican Senate hopeful Kari Lake says she raised $4.1M in first quarter of 2024

Arizona Republican Kari Lake announced Monday that her U.S. Senate campaign raised $4.1 million in the first quarter of 2024.

2 hours ago

Two people died and four others were injured when a car crashed into a wall and home in Peoria on A...

2nd person dies as a result of car crashing into Peoria house over weekend

A second person died after a car crashed into a house in Peoria over the weekend, authorities said Monday.

3 hours ago

File photo of a Phoenix Fire Department hazmat truck. Multiple buildings were evacuated in Phoenix ...

School, businesses evacuated because of gas leak near 27th and Northern avenues in Phoenix

Multiple buildings were evacuated in Phoenix on Monday after a gas leak caused a hazmat situation, authorities said.

4 hours ago

Follow @GriseldaZetino...

Sponsored Content by Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Crew captain explains why Woodbury Fire has been so difficult to fight