Wildland Fire: Clear Trap Prescribed Fire

Fire burns vegetation near a barbed wire fence.
The Clear Trap prescribed fire cleared fuels near the boundary of Zion National Park.

In late May 2013, fire management personnel from Zion National Park, with cooperation from interagency partners, completed the Clear Trap prescribed fire project. This second-entry burn along the park’s eastern boundary had been previously identified as one of the six original wildland-urban interface “focus areas” located in the Color Country Interagency Fire Management Area that required fuel reduction treatments to protect communities/properties at risk from the threat of wildland fire.

The objectives of the Clear Trap prescribed fire were to provide protection for surrounding property and structures, reduce fuel loading, and restore fire to its natural role in the ecosystem. This phase of the ongoing project retreated 650 acres of the original 4,000 acres in the burn unit. The remaining acreage of the burn unit was first treated in fall 2004.

The project began with a hand-ignited blacklining operation along the park boundary, adjacent to private lands and structures, to create a buffer zone along the boundary to reduce the risk of the prescribed fire escaping containment lines. Once the buffer zone was secure, the remaining portion of the burn unit was ignited from the air using a helicopter--a safer and more effective use of resources.

Once ignited, portions of the interior of the burn unit continued to slowly burn over several days. Smoke dispersal was very good during the burn due to favorable wind conditions and a high clearing index. There were very few impacts from smoke. Several temporary trail closures were instituted in and adjacent to the burn unit. Trails were reopened as soon as it was safe to do so.

Cooperation from local interagency partners was vital in the success of the project. Cedar City Bureau of Land Management, Dixie National Forest, and the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands provided much needed resources and experience. The National Park Service also provided assistance, including two wildland fire modules and the helicopter from Grand Canyon National Park.

The Clear Trap prescribed fire will benefit both Zion National Park and the landowners and residents of the East Zion area. The burn will not only provide them with a lowered risk from wildland fire, but will also benefit the plants and animals of the fire-adapted ponderosa pine ecosystem. The policy of using fire as a management tool will help decrease risks to life, property, and resources and will perpetuate the values for which the park was established.

Contact: David Eaker, fire communication and education specialist
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (435) 772-7811

Last updated: January 19, 2017