Managed Fires Still Burning, But Smoke Decreasing

Two fires totaling 4,000 acres on the Rim produce forest benefits

This photo was taken immediately after the Willard Fire burned through,
FOREST FLOOR: Fire moved mainly across the ground - "surface fire." The dead leaves stored nutrients necessary for healthy plants - now that the "duff" has been consumed, the nutrients are left behind for new grasses and fobs to absorb.
 
WHITE 'LINES' OF ASH: These used to be larger fuels (downed logs and branches). Note that not ALL logs get consumed...some creatures need this type of habitat.
 
TREE TRUNK SCORCH MARKS: Ponderoa pine are naturally resistant to low-severity fire. Dendrochronology (tree ring dating) shows scorch marks like this in 2-10 year intervals. This shows us how often fire naturally and historically burned frequently. The higher scorch marks also "raise crown heights." The flames help remove lower branches from trees that would otherwise act as ladders for surface fire to become crowning fire.

This photo was taken immediately after the Willard Fire burned through, FOREST FLOOR: Fire moved mainly across the ground - "surface fire." The dead leaves stored nutrients necessary for healthy plants - now that the "duff" has been consumed, the nutrients are left behind for new grasses and fobs to absorb. WHITE 'LINES' OF ASH: These used to be larger fuels (downed logs and branches). Note that not ALL logs get consumed...some creatures need this type of habitat. TREE TRUNK SCORCH MARKS: Ponderoa pine are naturally resistant to low-severity fire. Dendrochronology (tree ring dating) shows scorch marks like this in 2-10 year intervals. This shows us how often fire naturally and historically burned frequently. The higher scorch marks also "raise crown heights." The flames help remove lower branches from trees that would otherwise act as ladders for surface fire to become crowning fire.

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Smoke has significantly diminished in the Sedona, Verde Valley, and Blue Ridge communities. Though some smoke may still be noticeable at times, residents in these areas should expect it to continue to lessen in the coming days. Two fires totaling more than 4,000 acres that filled Rim Country with smoke early in the week have also died down, remaining contained in the boundaries set by fire managers in hopes the fires would thin the forest and safely burn off downed wood.

On the Bar M Fire southwest of Mormon Lake, crews continue to conduct burnout operations to solidify perimeters and maintain moderate fire behavior. The majority of smoke is moving to the east and settling overnight in Mormon Lake Basin. Some may drift down canyon toward the Verde Valley. Today is the last crews are focusing operations on the northeastern boundaries of the planning area – nearest Long Park. Beginning tomorrow, the majority of fire activity will be on the western perimeter where crews will conduct burnout operations to secure control lines.

The Bar M fire is currently 2,300 acres and continues to burn at a low severity across the landscape.

“It is important to remember that these are wildfires and with fire comes smoke. We cannot simply ‘turn them off’,’ but we can influence how they move through the landscape and we can utilize tactics to minimize the duration of the heaviest smoke impacts,” says Rick Miller, Fire Management Officer on the Flagstaff Ranger District.

“With any wildfire, we develop and implement a clear strategy. We determine boundaries where control lines will be effective and safe for firefighters, conduct burnout operations to solidify those perimeters, and use burnouts to keep fire behavior moderate as it progresses.” Completing the large burnout operations in a few days minimizes the overall duration of heavy smoke.

The efforts are paying off. Flames have helped to raise crown heights (removing low-laying branches) and consumed heavy fuels from the forest floor – all of which could have been “ladders” leading to crowning fires in hotter drier conditions. Reducing the risk of severe fire in the future provides a safer space for the public and firefighters. In addition, nutrients that were stored in the dead vegetation were released back into the soils, which will allow healthy forbs and grasses to appear. This type of fire is fulfilling a role that no other thinning or mechanical treatment can replace.

Bar M Fire

Behavior: 1-2 foot flame lengths across the forest floor. Some isolated torching, which is natural and expected.

Location: 5 miles southwest of Mormon Lake near Forest Roads 240 and 91.

The immediate fire area is closed for public safety, including a portion of Forest Roads 127 and 126.

Willard Fire

Final Size: 2,020 acres – no growth, increased number is due to more accurate mapping. Fire crews and equipment remain on scene to monitor fire activity as pockets within the interior continue to burn.

The immediate area is closed for public safety, but the main roads and trails are open.

Pothole Fire

Final Size: 2,200 acres. Very little activity within the perimeters, and not much smoke.

Forest Road 142F, as well as the Tramway and Maxwell Trails leading into the West Clear Creek Wilderness are temporarily closed for public safety.

General Fire

Final Size: 2,089 acres.

Subdivisions in the Blue Ridge community should anticipate smoke decreasing in the coming days.

Fire managers hope to reopen the Fred Haught Trail and a portion of the Arizona Trail soon.

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