Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Management Ignition Operations

Park Management Ignited Burns Support Five Year Research Study

Big Bend National Park, Texas

For the past 75 years fire has been largely excluded from the high country ecosystem and sky island of Big Bend National Park. The high country above 4,500 feet and rising up to the highest point in the park, Mount Emory at 7,832 feet, supports a huge diversity of plants and animals. Some species are found nowhere else in the United States except in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. Since the park's authorization as a national park in 1944, fires have been almost completely suppressed and excluded. This has resulted in a long-term need to restore fire as a natural and needed element of the Chisos Mountains ecosystem.

A five-year researcher study is seeking the most effective ways in which to restore fire and or to reduce fuel buildup in the Chisos Mountains. The five-year study seeks to find the most effective techniques for fire restoration and fuel reduction. To accomplish this, a variety of management techniques are being employed on 1-acre, computer generated plots through the foothills, mid-elevation and high elevations of the Chisos Mountains.

In support of the research study, Big Bend National Park began igniting a series of small, 1-acre sized fires on October 15, 2010 in the Green Gulch area of the Chisos Mountain foothills. Fire managers moved the burns into the higher elevations of the Chisos Mountains the week of October 18th.The managed ignited fires are part of the five-year study that will look at the effects of various types of management techniques in the Chisos Mountain foothills and higher elevation Chisos Mountains.The goal of the research study is to look at the effects of thinning an area, thinning and burning an area, no treatment at all, and burning only of various 1-acre plots in the Chisos Mountains ecosystem.This study is part of a larger region-wide research project.

Photo 1: Crew boss during briefing. Photo 2: Daily briefing. Photo 3: Green Gulch ignition operations. Photo 4: Concessions cook for the crews. Photo 5: Holding operations.

Photo 1: Los Diablos crew on assignment. Photo 2: Los Diablos and Saguaro Crew. Photo 3: Night ignitions in Green Gulch. Photo 4: Los Diablos, Saguaro, and Big Bend firefighters. Photo 5: 1-acre plot after treatment.

Firefighters conducting the management burns included members of the Big Bend National Park fire management staff, four members of the Saguaro Ignition Module and eight members of the Los Diablos Mexican National crew from the park's neighboring villages of Boquillas, San Vicente and Santa Elena, Mexico.

Researchers will now compare the effects and benefits of each of the four types of techniques to determine which has the best long-term benefits for the Chisos Mountains ecosystem.The research has been deemed necessary to help find the best strategies after long-term fire suppression has resulted in a heavy build-up of fuels and a long-term loss of the fire as a vital and necessary part of the Chisos Mountains ecosystem.

The series of research burns took place over several weeks. Disruptions to park visitors were minimal but included several short-term backpack campsite closures of several high Chisos backcountry campsites.

The long-term benefits of this research will result in far better management of the Chisos Mountains ecosystem by using current knowledge based upon science and data obtained in the field.

Contact: Jim Kitchen, Fire Management Officer
Phone: (432) 477-2397