Ranger District in Arizona achieves goal of no human-caused fires

It is not often that a story about no fires makes the news, but when a ranger district in Arizona says they had no human-caused fires in 2014, that sounds like a noteworthy accomplishment.

In calendar year 2014, the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest achieved a longtime goal of zero human-caused wildfires. According to forest wildfire records, the last time the district had zero human fires was in 1965, exactly 50 years ago.
“Over the last three years, we have had a specific, written goal of reducing human-caused wildfires on the district to zero for the entire calendar year,” said Quentin Johnson, fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District. “Given that the district receives millions of visitors each year because it is located immediately adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, we knew this would be an incredible challenge.”

Belknap Fire Kaibab NF 2014 USFS
The Belknap Fire on the Kaibab NF, Tusayan Ranger District was one of three lightning-caused fires on the District managed for resource benefits during the 2014 monsoon season. USFS photo.

Johnson added that while the district had been averaging about seven human-caused wildfires per year over the last 20 years, there were actually many summers during which 200 or more abandoned campfires had been found and extinguished by district fire personnel before they were declared wildfires.

The district’s success in 2014 was due largely to focused fire prevention efforts beginning almost 15 years ago that have chipped away at the leading cause of human fires on the district – abandoned campfires. Specifically, district fire prevention specialist Bob Blasi worked to gain compliance in dispersed camping areas and issued citations when necessary. With increased early-morning patrols, an extensive signing program, visits to local schools, Smokey Bear presence at local events, and a consistent prevention message for more than a decade, Blasi was able to systematically reduce the number of abandoned campfires and, therefore, the overall number of human-caused wildfires.
“This goal seemed almost impossible,” Blasi said. “Only one careless action by a single person can have a devastating outcome, as we see every year across this country somewhere in the wildlands of America. There were a couple years in the past decade when we only had two or three human-caused fires. It was then I realized that with a little extra effort focused on specific targets with increased fire prevention patrols, it might just be obtainable.”

Besides traditional fire prevention techniques such as patrols and signing, the Tusayan Ranger District has also been a leader in putting fire back on the landscape as frequently and broadly as conditions have allowed. Over the past 12 years, nearly 40 percent of the 327,250-acre Tusayan district has been treated with thinning and prescribed fire, which can slow the spread of new fires after they are ignited, making them easier for firefighters to put out, and reducing the number of acres burned.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Ranger District in Arizona achieves goal of no human-caused fires”

  1. This is an amazing accomplishment. I think they have a right to be proud.

    Good Luck to them to make it two years in a row!

  2. Great job… Shows a strong leaders intent.. a focused staff.. and a realistic goal….. and a little luck.

  3. That’s awesome! That is a good bunch of folks to work with. The entire fire program on the tusayan district.


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