Friday, July 03, 2015

Better management of wildfires in Arizona

It's been a good year for fire management in Arizona, says AZGS geologist Dr. Ann Youberg. Ann is our resident expert on dealing with post-fire effects including debris flows, mudslides, and related hazards. She's often on the ground before the fires are out, working with state and federal forestry teams to assess the damage and potential for geologic hazards threatening people and property.

Ann says a lightning strike started a wildfire, the Camillo Fire, southeast of Mormon Lake on June 14th. [Right, Inciweb map of extent of Camilo fire. July 3, 2015] Because conditions were good within the forest, the Forest managed the fire for resources. This is now called Box and Burn. The Forest draws a box around the area within which the fire can continue to burn. These are low to moderate severity fires that are good for the ecosystem. The Fire Management team uses back burns to establish the exterior lines/boundaries and interior ignitions are used to get the fire to move into areas they particularly want burned within the box. This box was an astounding 46,000 acres. The Fire Management team released the final update; the fire “only” burned 23,866 acres. Although they didn’t get their whole box burned, having that much at low to moderate is awesome, to say the least. There were other Box and Burns around the state this June, due to the very nice weather we’ve had. Two were down in the Peloncillos, one is on the San Carlos Res, and another is on the Kaibab plateau.  There  may be others. All in all, a good fire year in Arizona so far.

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