Prescribed burns at Grand Canyon’s North Rim, smoke may be visible

GRAND CANYON – Prescribed burns on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon kicked off  the planned burning season this week, starting in the Bright Angel area.

The canyon’s North Rim – completely isolated from the more touristy South Rim – is 150 miles southeast of St. George by road. Most visitor services and facilities on the North Rim of Grand Canyon are already closed for the winter season, although the North Rim is still open. The North Rim will remain open until Dec. 1, 2013, or until Highway 67 into the North Rim closes because of snow.

Smoke visibility

Even though the fires will be in Arizona, some Southern Utah residents may see smoke from the burns.

Smoke may be visible along Highway 67 near the Utah-Arizona border and Highway 89A which starts near Kanab. Smoke may also be seen from other locations near the North and South Rim, according to a press release from the Grand Canyon Public Affairs office.

Interagency fire managers expect the most substantial amount of smoke to be visible while they ignite the fires. After they start the fires, the smoke should gradually diminish.

The Grand Canyon has done prescribed burns for the last five to six years, said Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, Grand Canyon public affairs specialist.

Besides this current burn in the Bright Angel area, the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service are planning four area’s for prescribed burns on the North Rim this fall and winter. These areas are the Thompson Burn Unit, the North Rim Slopes Burn Unit, and the North Rim Pile Burn Unit.  The fire manager’s wait to burn until circumstances are safest for Grand Canyon visitors and the environmental conditions are most favorable.

Prescribed Fires

Bright Angel prescribed fire:

  • Burn Area: Approximately 426 total acres of which 95 acres may be treated with fire.
  • Location: The unit is bounded by the Widforss Trail, North Rim helibase, Transept Trail and Highway 67.
  • Plants Burned: This burn unit is comprised of a mixed conifer forest and ponderosa pine.
  • Objectives: Improving the defensible space in the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) within the North Rim developed area. This will reduce hazard fuels adjacent to structures to help decrease the threat of unwanted fires.

Thompson  prescribed fire:

  • Burn Area: Approximately 2,350 acres of which 1,100 acres may be re-treated with fire.
  • Location: The Thompson burn unit is located along the northern boundary of the park between Highway 67 and the Arizona Trail on the west and the 2000 Outlet Fire history area and the NPS boundary with the USFS on the east.
  • Plants burned: This unit is composed primarily of ponderosa pine with spruce, fir, and aspen.
  • Objectives: Reducing hazardous fuels, and creating a defensible space along the park/forest boundary to aid in protecting threatened and endangered species habitat adjacent to the boundary, including Apache Trout and Mexican Spotted Owl habitat.

North Rim Slopes  prescribed fire:

  • Burn Area: Approximately 22,040 acres of which various acres will be treated from year to year as a part of a multi-year implementation plan.
  • Location: On south facing slopes directly west of Highway 67 and the entrance station and east of the W-4 road and north of the Basin.
  • Plants burned: The area is comprised of mixed conifer forest and ponderosa pine. This entire burn unit includes previously untreated areas (first-entry) and areas that have experienced fire in the recent past.
  • Objectives: Include reducing hazardous fuels, returning fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem, and aid in protecting and enhancing Mexican Spotted Owl habitat.

North Rim Pile  prescribed fire:

  • Burn Area: Multiple small piles will be burned.
  • Location: Along Highway 67 and the Range Road.
  • Plants burned: Small diameter tree trunks, small branches, twigs and needles.
  • Objectives: Piles of woody debris over the next 30 days as weather conditions allow.

Further Information

Visitors may see fire personnel, vehicles, and air support in the vicinity when any prescribed fire is being implemented. Please drive slowly, turn your lights on, and avoid stopping in areas where fire personnel are working. Prescribed fire objectives include reducing accumulations of hazard fuels, maintaining the natural role of fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem, and protection of sensitive cultural and natural resources.

Ignition of any of these prescribed fires will be announced via Twitter @GrandCanyonNPS and on the park’s website.

Status of any initiated prescribed fire can be tracked on InciWeb.

For further info contact Grand Canyon Public Affairs Specialist Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski at 928-638-7958.

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1 Comment

  • Dixielambs October 27, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Wow, So why is it OK for the Forest service to put all that smoke in the air and I can’t get a permit to burn a pile of weeds in LaVerkin? Could it be that our local government isn’t the least bit concerned about the needs of local citizens??? naw surely that isn’t it…..

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