GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Fire managers in Grand Canyon National Park are making plans for the Watson Prescribed Fire (Watson Rx) on the South Rim of the park. Weather permitting, the Watson Rx will be initiated within the next 30 days.
The Watson Rx will include three adjacent burn units, Watsons 2, 3, and 4, all located south of Highway 64 (also known as Desert View Drive) in the vicinity of Grandview Point, approximately seven miles east-southeast of Grand Canyon Village. A total of 2,465 acres will be treated. All three burn units are composed of ponderosa pine with scattered pockets of pinyon-juniper and Gambel oak which last burned in 2002 and 1995.
Ignition of the Watson Rx is expected to take place over the course of three to five days and will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will be hand ignitions (blacklining operations) along Highway 64. Once a secure perimeter for the fire has been established near the roadway, aerial ignition will be used to complete the ignition.
Prescribed fires play an important role in decreasing risks to life, resources, and property by reducing accumulations of forest fuels and maintaining the natural role of fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem. Additionally, this prescribed fire will aid in protection objectives such as decreasing the risk of extreme fire behavior along Highway 64, one of the park's primary egress routes.
Like all prescribed fires, plans for the Watson Rx contain a set of parameters which define, among other things, the expected weather and fuel conditions under which the fire can be initiated. Prior to implementing the burn, fire managers will evaluate current conditions and will only ignite the fire if all of the prescribed conditions are within those parameters.
During typical prescribed fire activity, daytime smoke disperses to the northeast, up and over the canyon. At night, smoke would most likely settle into the canyon and South Rim drainages lifting out with daytime heating. Coordination with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is already underway for this prescribed fire.
Some smoke impacts on Highway 64 should be expected during the Watson Rx, and could lead to minor traffic delays. If necessary, pilot cars would be used and public safety personnel would direct traffic in areas where smoke and fire are visible.
For more information on the Watson Rx, please contact Public Affairs Specialist Shannan Marcak at (928) 638-7958. For more on Grand Canyon's fire management program, please visit the park's web site at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/firemanagement.htm.