Report: Fuel treatments made two Arizona fires more controlable

Burnout on the Slide Fire

Burnout operation on the Slide Fire. InciWeb photo.

Forest treatments to reduce hazardous fuels made it easier to contain two wildfires in Arizona this year, according to Wally Covington, the director of the Ecological Restoration Institute, and a Regents’ professor of forest ecology at Northern Arizona University. In an op-ed at LiveScience, Mr. Covington said the fires had the conditions, and the chance, to burn hundreds of houses and destroy some of the state’s most coveted recreational tourist attractions, but they didn’t.

He is referring to the 21,000-acre Slide Fire and the 7,000-acre San Juan Fire which started in May and June, respectively. While they still grew into large fires, Mr. Covington said they could have become very damaging megafires, if not for the fuel treatments previously conducted on the Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino National Forests.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

…The San Juan fire also provided lessons about how treated areas did what they were designed to do: slow a fire’s advance and restore a forest’s natural ability to self-regulate. How a wildfire behaves when it reaches a treatment area is a good test of how those treatments work. Fire crews and incident management teams reported that when the fire burned into areas that had been thinned, it burned with low severity and on the ground, not in treetops. The dry, frequent-fire forests of the West evolved with this type of fire, a slow-moving, low severity surface fire that would remove young trees and revitalize understory grasses and forbs. Anecdotal evidence from the San Juan Fire also suggests that the previously treated areas allowed fire crews to safely conduct burnout operations, thus enabling them to manage and control the fire.

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Arizona: Sitgreaves Complex Managed Fires

(Editor’s note. Today we are welcoming another writer and photographer to the Wildfire Today family. Tom Story, based in Phoenix, is a former newspaper photographer, now self employed editorial and commercial shooter, a one time National Interagency Fire Center contract photographer, and a longtime friend of the wildland fire community. Tom not only researched and wrote the article, but took the photos as well. Bill.)

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Sitgreaves Complex Fire

The crew from Kaibab National Forest Engine 314 — (left to right) Berkeley Krueger, Ben Winkler, and Keith Halloran, consult a map as they plan the day’s managed ignitions on the Sitgreaves Complex August 8, 2014.

“When monsoons arrive in northern Arizona, it is the ideal time for us to manage fires. Fire plays an absolutely essential role in keeping the forest healthy and in reducing the likelihood of high-severity fires that could threaten our neighboring communities,” said Art Gonzales, fire staff officer for the Kaibab National Forest.

So when a lightning strike on Sitgreaves Mountain, between Flagstaff and Williams, Ariz., on the evening of July 13, 2014, ignited a fire, one of several started on the Kaibab National Forest from summer thunderstorms that day, the Kaibab had plans in place to manage it as a resource benefit fire with the hope that they would be able to have the fire treat up to 19,000 acres of mostly ponderosa pine.

Sitgreaves Complex Fire

Ground fire from managed ignitions moves across the floor of the Kaibab National Forest on the Sitgreaves Complex August 8, 2014.

Resource benefit fires are managed for multiple objectives including reducing accumulated forest litter and fuels, maintaining fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem, increasing firefighter and public safety, and protecting cultural resources and wildlife habitat.

The Sitgreaves Fire occurred in an area that had been clear cut in the late 1800s-then reseeded, leaving a large area of similar aged trees and because of subsequent policies by the Forest Service, pretty much untouched by fire for over one hundred years.

Sitgreaves Complex Fire

The Grand Canyon National Park Helicopter, Papillon Helicopters’ A-Star B3 8PA, was used on the Kaibab National Forest’s Sitgreaves Complex for aerial ignition using a plastic sphere dispenser (PSD), August 8, 2014.

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Firefighter injured by tree felled by another firefighter

A firefighter working on the Quaking Fire 40 miles southeast of Fredonia, Arizona was injured by a tree that was being felled by another firefighter on July 24. The firefighter was knocked to the ground and sustained injuries. Several EMTs evaluated, packaged, and arranged for transportation by a National Park Service helicopter to the South Rim Helibase in Grand Canyon National Park. From there a medivac helicopter took the firefighter to the Flagstaff Medical Center for evaluation.

The 273-acre Quaking Fire, reported on July 13, is not being totally suppressed, but is being managed for “protection and resource benefit objectives”.

At least three other fires are burning in the greater Grand Canyon area:

  • Sitgreaves Complex, 5 miles northwest of Parks, Arizona; 2,689 acres.
  • McRae Fire, 5 miles southeast of Tusayan, Arizona; 3,142 acres.
  • Kanabownits Fire, on the Walla Valley Peninsula on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, 270 acres.

The video below was shot on the Sitgreaves Complex July 21, 2014.

 

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Fatal plane crash sparks Arizona wildfire

A plane crash north of Sedona that killed four people also ignited a small wildfire on Sunday, The Arizona Republic reported.

The 25-acre Fay Fire is burning about four miles north of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest, the paper reported. One hotshot crew, one helicopter and an air attack have been assigned to fire

The victims of the crash have yet to be identified, officials say. The cause of the crash was unknown as of Monday afternoon.

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One-liners, June 18, 2014

Assayii Fire June 15

Assayii Fire June 15, 2014. InciWeb photo.

*The Assayii Fire in northwest New Mexico, reported on Friday the 13th, has burned 12,107 acres on the Navajo Nation in the Bowl Canyon area.

*Missoula smokejumpers got checked out on a new Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC135 helicopter on Tuesday.

*On Tuesday five fires were intentionally set in vegetation in Oakland, California about two miles from where the Tunnel Fire began, which in 1991 killed 25 people (23 civilians, 1 police officer, and 1 firefighter), injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units.

*An off duty firefighter employed by the city of Arcadia, California is missing in the Los Padres National Forest in southern California.

*California will give $10 million of the $48 million of the “fire fees” they have collected to counties and organizations who intend to use the funds for fire prevention and mitigation projects.

*Evaluations of how agencies in San Diego County handled the rash of wildfires in mid-May determined that communications was major issue; that and the need for a third helicopter, but the $5 million request for the helicopter was not approved.

*Three cities in the Austin, Texas area plan to install a network of wildfire detection cameras to add to the one purchased last year by West Lake Hills.

*Squirrels may be to blame for some patchy reproduction of lodgepole pines following the 1988 wildfires in Yellowstone National Park.

*An unfortunate raven started a wildfire 25 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada when it contacted electrical wires; we will add this to our Animal Arson series, although it may have been a case of suicide arson.

*Dan Glickman and Harris Sherman, two former very high-ranking appointees in the Department of Agriculture, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times supporting the bill that would allow the Forest Service to draw money from federal disaster funds when firefighting costs reach 70 percent of the 10-year average.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Doug

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