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.

firefighter and a prescibed fire in a field of lovegrass

Monument Fire along Montezuma ridge. NPS photo by A. Ruiz.

Fuels Reduction Minimizes Monument Fire Impacts

Coronado National Memorial, Arizona
Cohesive Strategy—Fire-Adapted Communities*

On June 12, 2011, at approximately 1:15 pm, the human-caused Monument Fire started within the Coronado National Memorial, rapidly burning through the grasslands. The fire continued to burn through the park and beyond, eventually burning 30,526 acres within the Huachuca Mountains. Nearly 100% of the park's acreage was burned to some extent. Some areas burned intensely, but most areas burned with low to moderate severity. Because of the monsoon rains, by the end of August most of the memorial was very green with new growth of grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs.

small flames in the distance with firefighters in the woods

The wildlife camera behind the visitor center picks up the first image of fire with firefighters in the distance.

forest with fire and flames

The flames closer, yet a safe distance from the visitor center.

deer drinking from creek in the forest after the fire

Deer drinking from the pond behind the Visitor Center soon after the fire passed.

To help protect buildings during the fire, crews cleared brush and fallen leaves from around the buildings and removed lower limbs of trees. Burnout operations were also utilized to decrease the potential of intense fire in the memorial and to protect the visitor center. These fires were set during times when the humidity was higher and the winds and temperatures lower. The burnout fires burned grasses, but many of the larger shrubs and trees survived in those areas. No park structures were lost. View footage of the burnout operation behind the visitor center captured by the park's wildlife camera.

Mechanical fuels reduction and prescribed fire projects conducted over the past few years made it easier to plan and implement burnout operations to protect park structures during the Monument Fire. Recent projects included two prescribed fires in 2009. An eleven-acre prescribed fire was conducted to reduce fuels around park headquarters, park housing, the visitor center and the picnic area; and a thirty-acre prescribed burn was done to reduce fuels near the private homes near the memorial's entrance.

The adjacent Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District, previously conducted a prescribed burn in March 2008 which included a portion of the park. Firefighters also used chainsaws to thin around park structures over the past few years, most recently in 2010, further helping to create defensible space.

The widespread loss of vegetation as a result of the Monument Fire increased the possibility of flooding and mudslides. The park implemented post-fire rehabilitation efforts to minimize these impacts. Drainages have been cleared of downed trees and other debris, and culverts have been cleaned. This is an on-going project and will be repeated after every significant rain event.

On July 7, 2011, 0.54 inches of rain caused several washes in the park to flow, depositing about 6 inches of sediment over Forest Road 61, Montezuma Pass Road, at one of the low water crossings. Trail damage included the loss of water bars used for erosion control as well as downed trees. The roads and trails are open to the public now that they have been repaired and known hazards removed.

Contact: Denise Shultz, Chief of Interpretation
Phone: (520) 824-3560 x307

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.