Last updated: May 8, 2020
In April 2020, Big Bend National Park completed an active management project while taking coronavirus precautions, helping prevent exotic giant cane from encroaching on the popular Hot Springs Historic District. The cane had grown along the edge of the Rio Grande River, blocking views of the river, and creating a fuel source that, if ignited in a wildfire, would threaten prehistoric rock paintings and historic buildings.
“The challenge for this 4-acre prescribed fire was to figure out how to have firefighters work together without physically bringing them together,” said the park’s Fire Management Officer D.W. Ivans. “We still have important work to do, but we are making sure that we focus on firefighter safety and limit risk from coronavirus exposure."
The park partnered with the Mexican national Los Diablos fire crew to complete the recent prescribed burn. To maintain social distance during the operation, the park’s fire staff stayed on the northern side of the Rio Grande River and Los Diablos stayed on the southern side. Los Diablos firefighters traveled separately by horseback to strategic places around the burn area, riding over four miles to arrive on scene. The park’s fire crew had previously placed gear at designated spots on the bank of the river. The burn was conducted on the United States side of the river, with team members keeping a safe distance from each other and wearing face masks while igniting and monitoring the burn. Los Diablos provided the critical function of watching for spot fires while safely distanced on the Mexican side.