Fire managers plan 4-month prescribed burn on Arizona Strip south of St. George

The Bureau of Land Management is planning prescribed fires along the Arizona Strip District beginning early this month. Location and date undefined | Photo courtesy Connecticut Public Radio

ST. GEORGE — Fire managers with the Bureau of Land Management will begin prescribed burns beginning early this month to remove natural and manmade debris piles near Mt. Turnbull, approximately 65 miles south of St. George.

Depending on weather conditions and the amount of fuel, the burns could last through April 2020.

“The prescribed burn of slash debris piles in the Mt. Trumbull area should only take a few weeks depending upon weather conditions and access to the worksite,” said Rachel Carnahan, public affairs officer for the BLM’s Arizona Strip Field Office. “The December through April time frame allows fire managers to burn within the windows in which weather and fuels conditions are right for burning.”

Prescribed fire is used only when temperature, humidity, wind speed and fuel moisture are within the prescribed fire plan parameters. Prescribed fires can be ignited when weather and fuel conditions allow for minimized smoke impact on the public’s air quality and public health.

The debris piles are located approximately 5-6 miles along County Road 5 on the north side of Mt. Trumbull and are approximately 30-60 feet away from the roadway. There are no road closures anticipated, but public access may be restricted during the periods of active fire.

“For the Mt. Trumbull project, BLM has three different fuel and weather parameters to work within, a dry prescription, a wet prescription and a snow-covered prescription,” Carnahan said. “The difference between each prescription is the number of resources needed to conduct a safe, successful burn. For example, a dry prescription requires a Type 6 engine to be on scene.”

Currently, BLM will be burning under snow-covered prescription which requires fewer resources because of a reduced probability of burning the piles. The debris piles are located in an area of Mt. Trumbull which is 6,500 feet in elevation, where approximately 6-8 inches of snow is currently present.

Because of the remote location of the site, smoke will likely only been seen if visitors are in close proximity to the burn. Any emissions produced will be managed in accordance with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

Smoke will not likely be visible in St. George, Carnahan said.

Fire has always been part of the environment and is one of the most important natural agents of change. Fire plays a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Native Americans understood this and used fire to hunt game, maintain rangelands and keep forests healthy.

Prescribed fires are one of the most important tools used to reduce wildfire risk to communities, restore habitats, and to achieve land-management objectives. Fire management specialists consider objectives such as public and employee safety, weather, topography, fuels, size, the precise environmental conditions under which it will burn, and conditions under which it may be suppressed.

Prescribed fire is generally less expensive and yields ecological benefits that cannot be achieved by other means, such as mechanical thinning or logging. Prescribed fires also restore some of the ecological benefits that were historically gained from naturally occurring fires.

There are many potential goals that can be achieved by using prescribed fire. These include:

  • Decrease future wildfire risk.
  • Protect cultural and natural resources.
  • Reduce risk to human and biological communities from wildfire.
  • Help protect natural resources such as critical habitat.
  • Promote native species and reduce the encroachment of invasive species.
  • Enhance landscape resiliency and recovery from a wildfire event.
  • Improve firefighter ability to safely and effectively respond to and suppress wildfire.

Prescribed burns must meet strict weather-related and environmental conditions prior to the burn. BLM Arizona Strip District fire staff will monitor on-site conditions and manage fire activity, before, during and after the end of the operations.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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