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Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958
Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Fire managers in Grand Canyon National Park plan to initiate one of two prescribed fires on the North Rim within the next few weeks.
The National Park Service uses prescribed fire to restore and sustain the fire-dependent ecosystems of Grand Canyon National Park. Fire managers carefully plan prescribed fires, igniting them only under environmental conditions that are favorable to assuring firefighter and visitor safety and to achieving the desired benefits to forest health. Benefits from both of these fires will include reducing hazardous build ups of forest fuels, releasing nutrients back into the soil, increasing habitat diversity and creating a sustainable ecosystem.
The Walla Valley Prescribed Fire is intended to simulate natural fire events in the North Rim forests by using a point source ignition technique to mimic a group of lightning ignitions. Fire managers initially attempted to initiate this burn in early October; but cold and rainy weather conditions stalled efforts to blackline the north and east perimeters of the burn unit. The Walla Valley Burn Unit is located in the Walla Valley and Point Sublime area, approximately ten miles west of the North Rim developed area. To learn more about the Walla Valley Prescribed Fire, please see the park's October 12 news release at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/2010-10-12_walla.htm.
The Range Burn Unit is located just north of the North Rim developed area and is bounded by Highway 67 to the north and east, the w1a road (also known as the Range Road) to the west and southwest, and a small portion of the w1 road to the south. This burn unit is approximately 2,340 acres in size and consists primarily of mixed conifer forest. The southern end of this unit last burned in 2000 during the Outlet Fire.
The northern end of the Range Burn Unit has not burned in recent years, and heavy fuel loads have developed as a result. In order to reduce this hazardous build up of fuels, as well as the risk of damaging, high-intensity fire, fire managers will be looking for appropriately cool and moist conditions to initiate the Range Prescribed Fire, and will be igniting and managing the burn for low intensity, backing and flanking fire spread.
It is expected that smoke from these North Rim fires will be visible from most of the South Rim. On the North Rim, smoke impacts will be moderate, with smoke from the Range Prescribed Fire settling over Highway 67 in the evenings and possibly down into the canyon at night. Signs, traffic control personnel and pilot cars will be used as necessary to assure visitor safety on Highway 67. No smoke impacts to Highway 67 are expected with the Walla Valley Fire, but it is anticipated that smoke will settle into the canyon in the evenings. Although smoke is expected to gradually lift as daytime temperatures rise, fall temperature inversions could result in lingering smoke on the rim throughout the day. Coordination with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is ongoing.
Fire managers plan to assess conditions, including the ignition of small test fires, at both burn units by the end of the week. The results of the test fires and assessments will be used to determine which burn unit will receive greater benefit from a prescribed fire treatment at this time.
For additional information on these prescribed fires, please contact Public Affairs Specialist Shannan Marcak at 928-638-7958, or visit the park's fire information web page at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/fire_info.htm.