Mountain & Trail News

    North Rim Prescribed Fires, November 7 in Arizona

    North Zone Interagency Fire Managers have completed ignitions on both the Range and Thompson Prescribed Fires (Rx). Approximately 2,300 acres were treated in the Range burn unit and approximately 3,800 acres were treated in the Thompson unit. Fire managers employed both hand and aerial ignitions in both units.

    Goals and objectives were met:

    Initial post-treatment observations indicate that goals and objectives for both fires were met. In addition to maintaining the natural role of fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem, these fires:

    • reduced the heavy build-up of dead and down vegetation in both burn units, decreasing the risk of extreme fire behavior in the future especially along Hwy 67, the North Rim’s primary egress route;
    • created defensible space around sensitive cultural resources and along the park-forest boundary. (In the event of future wildfires in the area, this will aid in the protection of sensitive cultural resources within the burn units and threatened and endangered species habitat adjacent to the boundary, including Apache trout and Mexican spotted owl habitat.);
    • protected and enhanced Mexican spotted owl habitat within the park by reducing the risk of a stand replacement fire destroying habitat and creating new snags and course debris that enhance MSO habitat.

    The Range and Thompson Rx were jointly managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Approximately 80 personnel from both agencies worked on the fires; and as a result of strong and effective collaboration, the two agencies were able to seamlessly treat acres across jurisdictional boundaries.

    Some closures lifting:

    Moderate smoke impacts to Highway 67 remain a possibility. Daytime visitors may see light smoke along the roadway. Overnight closures of the entrance road are possible as smoke settles in the evening. Drivers should use their headlights, watch for and obey traffic signs and personnel, and remain alert to the possibility of fallen trees especially during and after wind events.

    The Arizona Trail has re-opened from Forest Road 610 to the Point Sublime (w1) Road. The length of the Arizona Trail through Grand Canyon National Park is once again open. Hikers may continue to see smoke and smoldering logs and should remain vigilant to the dangers of falling trees particularly during wind events.

    The Range Road (also known as the w1a road) remains closed at this time. If conditions allow, safety personnel expect to re-open the Range Road sometime next week.

    Smoke will decrease:

    Smoke from the Range and Thompson Rx is expected to gradually decrease now that ignitions are complete, but will remain visible to some extent until a major rain or snow event occurs. Smoke may be seen along Hwy 67 as well as from Hwy 89A and various locations on both the North and South Rims. Smoke is expected to continue to rise as temperatures warm during the day and to settle again at night as temperatures cool, including into the canyon and North Rim development.

    The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service would like to thank park visitors and community members for their patience and understanding during management of these two fires. Temporary road closures significantly enhanced both firefighter and visitor safety; and smoke impacts during prescribed fires can be managed and mitigated to a far greater extent than those created by a wildfire. The two agencies would also like to thank the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for their extended commitment to collaboratively planning these fires.

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