On June 8, 2019, the human-caused Woodbury Fire began in the Superstition Wilderness near the Woodbury Trailhead. This Forest Service land is full of rugged terrain with virtually no access which limited the ability of firefighters to safely confront the fire on land. As there were only relatively few access points between the fire and Tonto National Monument, the likelihood of fire entering the Monument continued to increase as the fire grew in size. Check out the Woodbury Fire Timeline to see the events that occurred leading up to firing operations within Tonto National Monument.
Over the course of the summer, the fire grew to a total of 123,875 acres. Within Tonto National Monument, 88% (989 acres) of the land was burned. Although previous fires had burned small sections of the Monument, this was the largest in recorded history. The immense size was due to increased moisture during the winter months which created a large fuel source of nonnative grasses and other plants. Additionally, extreme temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a delayed monsoon season posed challenges for firefighters as they attempted to battle the blaze. However, thanks to work done by park archeologists and firefighters, neither cliff dwelling was damaged during the fire.
As the fire became contained and conditions safer, park managers were allowed access to the Monument to check for damage. Assessments of both the natural and cultural resources were necessary to make sure it was safe for visitors to return and to ensure archeological sites were intact.
Although park managers have reduced some immediate hazards in the park, burned conditions will continue to persist for years to come. When visiting Tonto National Monument or any recently burned area it it important to always be aware of your surroundings. Hazards that could be present include, but are not limited to, flooding, unstable roils, and falling rocks/trees.
To learn more about fires and fire management in your National Parks visit the fire homepage.
Last updated: January 24, 2021