Fire crews treat more than 6,000 acres on North Rim of Grand Canyon

Officials say Range and Thompson prescribed fires will reduce chance of extreme fire behavior in the future

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - North Zone Interagency fire managers completed ignitions on both the Range and Thompson Prescribed Fires (Rx). Crews treated approximately 2,300 acres in the Range burn unit and approximately 3,800 acres in the Thompson unit. Fire managers employed both hand and aerial ignitions in both units.

Initial post-treatment observations indicate that goals and objectives for both fires were met. In addition to maintaining the natural role of fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem, these fires:

• reduced heavy build-up of dead and down vegetation in both burn units, decreasing the risk of extreme fire behavior in the future especially along Hwy 67, the North Rim's primary egress route;

• created defensible space around sensitive cultural resources and along the park-forest boundary. (In the event of future wildfires in the area, this will aid in the protection of sensitive cultural resources within the burn units and threatened and endangered species habitats adjacent to the boundary, including Apache trout and Mexican spotted owl habitat.); and

• protected and enhanced Mexican spotted owl habitat within the park by reducing the risk of a stand replacement fire destroying habitat and creating new snags and coarse debris that enhance spotted owl habitat.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service jointly managed the Range and Thompson fires. Approximately 80 personnel from both agencies worked on the fires, and as a result of strong and effective collaboration, the two agencies were able to treat acres across jurisdictional boundaries.

Moderate smoke impacts to Highway 67 remain a possibility. Daytime visitors may see light smoke along the roadway. Overnight closures of the entrance road are possible as smoke settles in the evening.

The Arizona Trail re-opened from Forest Road 610 to the Point Sublime (w1) Road. The length of the Arizona Trail through Grand Canyon National Park is once again open. Hikers may continue to see smoke and smoldering logs. Trees may fall particularly during wind events.

The Range Road (also known as the w1a road) remains closed at this time. If conditions allow, safety personnel expect to re-open the Range Road sometime next week.

Smoke from the Range and Thompson Rx is expected to gradually decrease now that ignitions are complete, but will remain visible to some extent until a major rain or snow event occurs. Smoke may be seen along Hwy 67 as well as from Hwy 89A and various locations on both the North and South Rims. Smoke is expected to continue to rise as temperatures warm during the day and to settle again at night as temperatures cool, including into the canyon and North Rim development.

The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service thanks park visitors and community members for their patience and understanding during management of the fires. Temporary road closures significantly enhanced both firefighter and visitor safety, and smoke impacts during prescribed fires can be managed and mitigated to a far greater extent than those created by a wildfire.

Updates on the Thompson prescribed burn and road closure information is available at www.inciweb.org/incident/3305/.

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