Fire managers for both the park and the Forest Service plan several prescribed burns in the coming weeks, if weather and forest conditions permit.
Prior to the burns, fire managers will evaluate weather conditions and coordinate with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. If conditions do not meet predetermined standards for air quality, burns will be postponed until conditions are appropriate.
Four prescribed burns are planned in the park, three for the North Rim and one on the South.
The Northwest burn unit is 3,033 acres in the northwest corner of the park, adjacent to the boundary of the Kaibab National Forest and approximately 14 air miles northwest of the North Rim developed area along the Swamp Ridge Road.
The Southwest Roost unit is 2,130 acres approximately nine air miles northwest of the North Rim developed area adjacent to Kanabownits Canyon and five miles north of Point Sublime.
The Uncle Jim unit is 3,350 acres approximately two air miles northeast of the North Rim developed area along Fuller Canyon.
The Tusayan burn unit is 584 acres along the east side of Highway 64 starting at the park's south boundary, adjacent to the South Entrance Station, and moving north.
Minor traffic delays are possible in the vicinity of these fires, with public safety personnel directing traffic as necessary.
Smoke columns will be visible on days when the fires are ignited. Residual smoke impacts from the Northwest, Southwest Roost and Uncle Jim prescribed fires are anticipated to be minimal with a possibility of overnight smoke in the Canyon for a few nights. This should lift and dissipate as daytime temperatures rise, usually by midmorning. Tusayan could experience light to moderate smoke impacts for a few nights if the Tusayan prescribed fire takes place.
As of late last week, the Roosevelt wildland fire use fire continued to burn on the North Rim, seven miles east of the North Rim developed area. This lightning-caused fire was discovered July 19 and was allowed to burn for resource benefit. As of Sept. 3, the fire was 2,585 acres. The Cape Royal Road will be closed intermittently until further notice to allow this fire to burn.
For more information on fires in the park, call public affairs specialist Pamela Walls or the park's recorded fire information message at 638-7819. Information is also available on the park's Web site at www.nps.gov/grca.
Up to three prescribed burns are planned on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, starting as early as this week and continuing through the month if weather conditions remain appropriate.
In the Tusayan East project area just east of Tusayan, firefighters plan to ignite about 250 acres. The area will be burned in small blocks due to the proximity to the community, with fire managers looking for good ventilation conditions so that smoke will move up and away from the community as quickly as possible.
Objectives of the Tusayan East burn are to increase protection to the Tusayan community, reduce hazardous fuels and the potential for undesirable fire behavior, stimulate the growth of native grasses and forbs, protect older trees and enhance wildlife habitat.
Fire managers will also be looking to treat up to 750 acres in the Tusayan South project area, which is located just west of state Highway 64 and south of the airport.
Fire managers will be looking for days with minimal winds or winds from the north in order to avoid smoke impacts to Tusayan and the airport. However, when the burn is ignited, light haze from smoke is possible across state Highway 64.
The purpose of the Tusayan South burn is to reduce fire risk in the wildland-urban interface zone, the area where forest and community meet. The Kaibab National Forest continues to focus on these areas for treatment in order to protect lives and property.
The third area being considered for burning on the Tusayan Ranger District is Red Horse, which is located just west of Russell Tank and north of Bucklar Ranch.
Up to 1,800 acres are available for prescribed fire treatments in the area. While smoke is not expected to reach Tusayan, fire managers will be monitoring smoke impacts at Bucklar Ranch.
For more information on Forest Service burns, contact Jackie Denk at 928-635-8314 or Mike Schulte at 928-607-6201.