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.

A collapsed smoke plume looms over a softly lit Grand Canyon.

View of the Range prescribed fire from the Bright Angel Trail on the North Rim. NPS / Michelle Fidler

Successful North Rim Prescribed Fires at Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Cohesive Strategy—Maintain and Restore Resilient Landscapes*

In early November 2012, North Zone interagency fire managers completed ignitions on the Range and Thompson prescribed fires. Approximately 2,300 acres were treated in the Range burn unit and approximately 2.350 acres were treated in the Thompson unit. Fire managers employed both hand and aerial ignitions in both units.

Map of prescribed fire area. Click for larger version.

Map of the Range and Thompson burn units. Click on image for larger version.

White ash is visible on the ground where dead and down fuels burned, leaving the standing trees healthy.

White ash is visible on the ground where dead and down fuels burned, leaving the standing trees healthy. NPS / Michelle Fidler

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 Highway 67, the North Rim's primary exit 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 Mexican spotted owl habitat.

The Range and Thompson prescribed fires 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.

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 and trail 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.

Contacts: Ed Hiatt, North Zone Fire Management Officer
Phone: (928) 643-8101

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.