Prescribed burn planned for tomorrow south of Flagstaff

October 9, 2019 - 3:03 pm

Coconino National Forest firefighters are planning to conduct a prescribed burn tomorrow south of Kachina Village and will continue other burn projects next week if weather conditions remain favorable.

These burns are among the prescribed burn projects planned for the Flagstaff Ranger District this fall and are part of a strategy to allow fire across the landscape in order to restore forests to healthier conditions and improve the safety of the communities around them.

Frequent, low-intensity fire removes accumulated smaller fuels and recycles nutrients in the soils to promote healthy vegetation and wildlife habitat. A healthier forest is a safer forest for firefighters and residents when wildfires inevitably occur.

The prescribed burn projects listed below are in chronological order. Firing ignitions for each of these projects begin at approximately 10 a.m. on the mornings indicated.

Kachina - Block 1

  • When: Thursday (Oct. 10).
  • Where: Nine miles south of Flagstaff. GPS: 35.072046°, -111.711435°.
  • Size: 553 acres.
  • Duration: One-day operation.
  • Method/Type of Burn: Broadcast maintenance burn conducted by drip torch. This burn is located in strategic areas near the communities of Kachina Village and Forest Highlands in order to keep fuels from accumulating, which could present dangerous conditions if a severe wildfire approached the area. There are two blocks to the Kachina Project. Block 2 is planned for the following week.
  • Smoke Impacts: Ventilation is predicted to move smoke toward the northeast. Cooling temperatures in the evenings may cause smoke to settle in the low-lying areas surrounding the burn. However, because this is a maintenance burn, there will be thinner forest fuels in the area, and this burn should only produce light smoke.
  • Closures/Restrictions: None expected.

Experimental Forest

  • When: Tuesday (Oct. 15).
  • Where: Six miles northwest of Flagstaff. GPS: 35.272710, -111.691766.
  • Size: 525 acres.
  • Duration: This is a one-day operation.
  • Method/Type of Burn: Broadcast maintenance burn conducted by drip torch. This burn is being conducted for fire integral research purposes and in partnership with NAU, Ecological Restoration Institute, and The Nature Conservancy in order to measure things such as pine regeneration, tree mortality, and other factors associated with wildfire in this fire-dependent ecosystem.
  • Smoke Impacts: Ventilation is predicted to move smoke toward the northeast and may impact U.S. Highways 180 and 89 north of Flagstaff. Cooling temperatures in the evenings may cause smoke to settle in the low-lying areas of Ft. Valley Ranch, Cheshire, and possibly Baderville.
  • Closures/Restrictions: None expected. However, Arizona Department of Transportation will likely reduce the speed limit on Hwy 180 and impose lane restrictions where needed.

Frog Tank

  • When: Oct. 16 (Wednesday).
  • Where: Immediately north of Munds Park. GPS: 34.957259, -111.645870.
  • Size: 920 acres.
  • Duration: One-day operation.
  • Method/Type of Burn: Broadcast initial-entry burn conducted by drip torch and helicopter. This burn is located in a strategic area north of the Munds Park community to remove dense forest fuels that could endanger Munds Park and Flagstaff communities if a wildfire started north of Munds Park.
  • Smoke Impacts: Ventilation is predicted to move smoke toward the northeast. Cooling temperatures in the evenings will cause smoke to settle in the low-lying areas surrounding the burn. This will likely impact the community of Munds Park and possibly reduce visibility on Interstate 17 during the morning hours following the burn and disperse by the afternoon. Since this is an initial-entry burn, smoke will be thicker than normal.
  • Closures/Restrictions: None expected.

Kachina - Block 2

  • When: Oct. 17 (Thursday).
  • Where: Nine miles south of Flagstaff. GPS: 35.072046°, -111.711435°.
  • Size: 291 acres.
  • Duration: One-day operation.
  • Method/Type of Burn: Broadcast maintenance burn conducted by drip torch. This burn is located in strategic areas near the communities of Kachina Village and Forest Highlands in order to keep fuels from accumulating, which could present dangerous conditions if a severe wildfire approached the area. This is the second and final block of the Kachina Project.
  • Smoke Impacts: Ventilation is predicted to move smoke toward the northeast. Cooling temperatures in the evenings may cause smoke to settle in the low-lying areas surrounding the burn. However, because this is a maintenance burn, there will be thinner forest fuels in the area, and this burn should only produce light smoke.
  • Closures/Restrictions: None expected.

Notifications of upcoming prescribed burns are provided regularly by news releases throughout the season. Timely updates about ignitions and whether or not a project is cancelled can be found on the Forest's social media sites:

Methods and Types of Prescribed Burns

There are two methods of prescribed burns mostly used on the Coconino National Forest—broadcast and pile.

Often, in areas of 50 or more acres or areas that are difficult for firefighters to reach, helicopters with aerial ignition devices are used to light broadcast burns, called such because the burn is widely broadcast across the landscape. Firefighters also use drip torches to create many lines of fire in a pattern that allows the strips of fire to broadcast and burn together over a sizable area. This is done so large areas can be burned in a shorter amount of time so communities aren't impacted by smoke for long periods of time.

Pile burns involve burning slash piles created from hand-thinning or timber projects. These are mostly conducted during cooler winter months—often when snow is on the ground—in order to burn the piles in safer conditions.

There are two types of prescribed burns, which include initial-entry or maintenance. Initial-entry burns are termed such if an area where a prescribed burn is going to take place has not seen fire in many years. This means forest fuels will be more dense and produce more smoke than a maintenance burn. Maintenance burns involve areas that have seen fire within the last couple of years and have less forest fuels that will produce less smoke. Maintenance burns are done so forest fuels can be maintained and consumed at regular intervals, helping keep forest fuels from accumulating over the years.

Prescribed burns are always dependent upon weather and wind conditions, as well as approval from Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). The public can view approved prescribed burns on ADEQ’s website at smoke.azdeq.gov. Coconino National Forest burns begin with the Burn Number designation “COF.” 

For more information about prescribed burns and the benefits of these fires across the landscape, please visit our Prescribed Burns and Smoke webpage. As well, if you are interested in how prescribed burns are planned and implemented, please see the document "Planning for and Implementing Prescribed Fire in Fire-Dependent Forests," by NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute.

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