Horse Fire will benefit landscape<br>

The Horse Fire, which is located about 10 miles east of Red Butte on the Tusayan Ranger District, slowly creeps around the forest, disposing of the buildup of fuels on the forest floor and recycling nutrients back into the soil.

The Horse Fire, which began July 26 when lightning hit a large ponderosa pine, continues to burn on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. The fire, which has grown to about 150 acres, is being used by fire managers to clear debris on the forest floor and re-establish fire’s natural role in the ecosystem.

“This fire is burning so beautifully and so naturally,” said Dave Mills, assistant fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District. “The Fire has had flame lengths of about a foot, and it has crept around the landscape slowly and consistently.”

After the fire got started July 26, it slowly grew to about 22 acres and stayed at that size for several days due to wet conditions. In fact, fire managers thought the Horse Fire might burn out on its own without growing any larger.

However, a few days of dry, warm conditions led to the fire’s expansion to about 150 acres.

“We were thrilled that the fire was able to keep burning and doing the things it should naturally be doing in this ecosystem such as cleaning debris off the forest floor, recycling nutrients back into the soil and killing off some of the very small diameter trees that have overtaken our forest,” Mills said.

Mills said he was unsure whether the wildland fire use fire would continue to grow over the coming weeks. With monsoon moisture returning to the Tusayan district, the fire may die out on its own. However, as happened last week, conditions could dry out again, allowing the fire to continue its natural growth.

“Whatever happens with this fire, it has been a great training experience for our fire crews,” Mills said. “Because of the extremely dry conditions in 2000 and 2002, we haven’t been able to implement the wildland fire use program until this year on the Kaibab National Forest. We hope to continue using these kind of fires for resource benefits across the forest.”

In August 2000, the Kaibab National Forest Land Management Plan was amended to allow wildland fire use as a management option. The Horse Fire is the second wildland fire use incident ever on the Tusayan Ranger District. The first occurred July 25 but burned less than an acre before dying out on its own.

Mills emphasized that if it became necessary, firefighters would suppress the Horse Fire. He said suppression action would be taken if the fire exceeds the “maximum manageable area” — set at 690 acres — if the fire begins to burn too intensely creating undesirable fire effects; if private property is threatened; if firefighting resources become scarce; or if smoke impacts become unacceptable in the community of Tusayan or at Grand Canyon National Park.

For more information, contact Jackie Denk at (928)-635-5607.

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