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Thu, Feb. 20

Forest Service<br>begins prescribed burning

Kaibab National Forest fire managers hope to burn up to 600 acres southeast of Tusayan this fall. Burning in the Lockett Lake area got under way on Wednesday.

Bob Blasi of the Tusayan Ranger District works on site at a prescribed burn. (Photo/Forest Service)

“Because of the amount of precipitation received, we do not have any concerns about the fire spreading out of designated areas,” said Dave Mills, assistant fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District.

Fire managers like to burn this time of year because of higher relative humidity levels, cooler temperatures and higher fuel moisture levels. Mills said late summer burning also reduces smoke impacts to Tusayan, Grand Canyon National Park and the airport.

In all, Kaibab plans to treat up to 5,850 acres through prescribed burning in six project areas. The burns are described by forest officials as necessary to reduce the risk of high-intensity wildland fires and to re-establish fire’s natural role in the ecosystem.

The main area of focus on the Tusayan district is located about 10 miles east and southeast of Tusayan. For the last several years, fire crews have been conducting burns in various parts of the Scott project area.

“The only thing that could slow us down would be if we continued to receive a lot of rain,” Mills said. “If the fuels on the forest floor become too wet, then a prescribed burn won’t carry well and won’t accomplish the objectives we are trying to meet, such as removing debris from the forest and recycling nutrients into the soil.”

Once the Tusayan Ranger District receives snow, Mills said he hoped to burn about 100 acres of piles near Lockett Lake.

Winter is traditionally the best season for burning piles because the snow on the ground prevents the pile burns from creeping out of designated boundaries and helps lessen the intensity of the fire.

The Lockett Lake burn that was ignited Wednesday will continue through the end of this week, weather permitting. The burn’s main purpose is to reduce natural fuel accumulations and debris from past thinning projects. Other objectives include enhancing biological diversity and improving forest health in the area.

Because of past thinning projects on the Tusayan Ranger District, there are many areas where personal-use fuelwood remains available. Mills recommends that those wanting fuelwood to visit the Tusayan Ranger District office off of state Route 64 just south of Grand Canyon National Park to pick up a fuelwood permit.

On the North Kaibab Ranger District, fire managers plan to focus on two prescribed burn units this fall.

In the first project area — Road Hollow Unit B — fire crews plan to treat 80 acres. The 80 acres scheduled for burning are located about 20 miles south and southwest of Jacob Lake and are the last acres to be burned in a 2,000-acre project area that fuels managers have been treating for the last four years.

The second North Kaibab burn will treat up to 1,500 acres in Holy Hollow Unit C, located a few miles east of Parissawampitts Point on the border with the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The 1,500 acres scheduled for burning are part of a larger 10,000-acre project that will continue over the next several years.

Besides prescribed burning, forest officials will also continue to look for opportunities to manage ignitions caused by natural events such as lightning — known as wildland fire use — to meet resource objectives.

As of last week, Kaibab fire managers had overseen 12 wildland fire use fires on the forest’s three districts. The largest, called the Antelope Fire, has burned 244 acres about 10 miles east of Red Butte on the Tusayan Ranger District.

While the fire has not been declared out, it is no longer burning actively because of significant rainfall in the area.

The largest fire that is burning actively has reached 30 acres in size and is located on the North Kaibab Ranger District. Fire managers will continue to monitor the fire, although they expect minimal growth due to light fuel loading in the area.

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