Favorable Conditions Allow Fire Managers to Continue Operations on North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

GRAND CANYON – National Park Service (NPS) and US Forest Service (USFS) fire managers, working together as the North Zone Interagency Fire Management Program, anticipate initiating more prescribed fire (Rx) treatments this week as weather and fuel moisture conditions allow on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Prescribed fires play an important role in decreasing risks to life, resources, and property. Fire managers carefully plan prescribed fires, initiating them only under environmental conditions that are favorable to assuring firefighter and visitor safety and to achieving the desired objectives.

Thompson Rx: Fire managers anticipate igniting up to 2,000 acres of the Thompson Rx unit. The unit is located on the east side of Arizona Highway 67, directly east of the North Rim entrance station, and adjacent to the northern boundary of the Park and Forest Service Road 610. The Thompson Rx unit is predominantly spruce, fir, and aspen, with some large ponderosa pine and small grassy meadows.

Specific objectives for the Thompson Rx include reducing dead and downed woody fuels, reducing potential future fire behavior, returning fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem, preventing adverse impacts to cultural and natural resources, aiding in the preservation of historic structures and archaeological sites, and protecting species habitat.

High Severity Edge Rx: The High Severity Edge Rx is in primarily ponderosa pine forest on the Walhalla Plateau, west of Cape Royal Road. Fire managers plan to treat approximately 500 acres this season. This protection project is a third-entry treatment for an area that recently had wildfires – the 2009 Aspen Fire and the 2001 Vista Fire. A specific objective of this Rx is to limit new high severity fires on the Walhalla Plateau.

Tipover East Rx Update: Fire managers completed ignitions on the Tipover East Rx and will transition operations to a Type-3 Incident Commander tomorrow. Anticipated operations on Tipover are to hold and patrol, and at least two engine crews will remain on site to monitor fire behavior within the unit. Specific objectives include reducing accumulations of hazardous fuels and protecting sensitive cultural and natural resources.

North Rim Slopes Rx Update: Fire managers treated approximately 800 acres yesterday within the North Rim Slopes Rx and plan to treat an additional 800 acres next week if conditions are conducive to safely do so. Specific objectives include reducing accumulations of hazardous fuels by 25 percent and returning fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem.

Smoke Impacts: Smoke will be visible from various locations on the North and South rims, and Arizona Highways 64, 67 and 89A. Smoke may impact traffic and may also be present in the inner canyon and on the section of Arizona Trail near the Thompson Rx. If necessary, pilot car operations will be used on FR 610. Motorists are cautioned to please drive slowly with lights on, avoid stopping in areas where fire personnel is working, and follow directions of signs and personnel. Fire managers are working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality-Smoke Management Division to reduce and mitigate potential smoke impacts.

Monsoons keep North Zone firefighters busy as lightning ignites multiple fires in Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park

FREDONIA — For Immediate Release. Within the past week, North Zone fire personnel consisting of firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service have responded jointly to multiple lightning-caused wildfires located on both the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and adjacent North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest.

Lightning-caused wildfires are a common occurrence during the monsoon season (typically late-June through late-July). Of the five fires sparked by monsoonal storms this week, two are being suppressed and three are being monitored.

Monitoring a wildfire is a fire management tactic used by fire managers when strategizing an incident response, and contributing factors that help steer this decision-making process are often incident specific. Location, available resources, predicted weather, topography, air quality and predicted fire behavior are all factors that contribute to fire management decisions.

“Each of these fires has received significant monsoonal moisture and are predicted to receive even more throughout the next week,” said North Zone Fire Management Officer Ed Hiatt. “This ebb and flow of monsoonal moisture allows us the necessary time to identify values at risk, assess potential planning area boundaries and gather other intelligence necessary to make sound tactical decisions so that we are ready to respond appropriately once fire activity dictates.”

Fires currently in monitor status are:

· The Haunted wildfire – burning in ponderosa pine fuel type located at the Outlet Peninsula on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The fire is approximately 3 acres in size.
· The Pine Hollow wildfire – burning in ponderosa pine fuel type and debris left from the Pipeline Fire of 2009. The fire is west of Big Springs Field Station in the vicinity of Little Mountain and is approximately 5 acres in size.
· The Crescent wildfire is burning north of the historic Kanabownits Lookout Tower in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer fuel types and is approximately 3 acres in size.

Additional fire activity updates will be provided as new information becomes available, and may be obtained through the following sources:

· Kaibab National Forest Website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
· Grand Canyon National Park: www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/firemanagement.htm
· Kaibab National Forest Fire Information phone line: (928) 635-8311
· Text Message – text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404
· Twitter: @KaibabNF
· Facebook: @KaibabNF

Crews make significant progress in suppressing wildfire near Tusayan

Crews made significant progress last night in suppressing the 151-acre Rain Fire located about 5 miles southwest of the Town of Tusayan on the Kaibab National Forest.

Incident commander Quentin Johnson said the wildfire, which is burning in pinyon-juniper woodlands, is now 40 percent contained after retardant drops yesterday and the construction of hand and dozer line late into last night.

Resources assigned today include three 20-person hand crews, three engines, a dozer, a water tender and several individual fire personnel for a total of about 80 people. With winds predicted to be out of the west and gusts up to 30 mph in the forecast today, fire personnel will focus on enhancing established containment lines especially on the east flank to try to prevent the wildfire from spreading.

Smoke from the Rain Fire has diminished significantly since yesterday, but it may still be visible from Grand Canyon Airport, Grand Canyon National Park, Highway 64, and the Town of Tusayan. Grand Canyon National Park remains open.

No structures are threatened. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

National Park Service seeks public comment on initial environmental assessment for bison herd reduction at Grand Canyon

PHOENIX – The National Park Service (NPS) has made available for public review its Initial Bison Herd Reduction Environmental Assessment (EA), which evaluates management actions related to bison on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The public can view the EA on the NPS website and submit any comments through June 7.

Since the 1990s, the bison population on the Kaibab Plateau herd has grown significantly, impacting Grand Canyon National Park resources such as water, vegetation, soils and archaeological sites. While they are negatively affecting habitat at their current numbers, bison can provide exceptional value to the visitor experience, when managed at appropriate numbers and distribution.

The purpose of the actions evaluated in the EA are to (1) quickly reduce bison population density on the Kaibab Plateau through collaborative efforts and (2) protect Grand Canyon National Park resources and values from the impacts of a steadily growing bison population.

According to a NPS news release, the NPS would work together with cooperating agencies and partners through the preferred alternative to reduce the bison herd to fewer than 200 animals using lethal culling with skilled volunteers and non-lethal capture and removal.

A management action that is not included in the Park Service’s preferred alternative is reducing the bison herd through public hunting. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department have consistently advocated for a model that uses properly licensed hunters as a management tool and allows the hunter to keep the animal.

“Several of the proposed actions in the Park Service EA will cost taxpayers far more than lethal removal by citizen hunters who would pay for the opportunity to assist the NPS,” said Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner Kurt Davis. “This will provide additional hunting opportunities consistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and help to properly manage the bison population. This approach just makes sense and supports efforts to alleviate park damage caused by bison, saves tax dollars, funds wildlife conservation and helps protect habitat for other wildlife.”

The NPS will host three in-person open house meetings and one web-based meeting during the comment period. All times are Arizona time (Mountain Standard Time – MST) unless otherwise indicated:

  • 6 p.m. – 8 pm. Tuesday, May 16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1175 W. Route 66 in Flagstaff.
  • 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18 at the Ben Avery Activity Center, 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd in Phoenix.
  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Mountain Time) (5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Arizona time) Tuesday, May 23 at the Holiday Inn Express and Hotel, 217 S. 100 East in Kanab, Utah.
  • 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 30 online. Registration for the web-based meeting and more information about the open houses can be found here.

Comments can be submitted either electronically or via U.S. Postal Service at Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EA, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 or at one of the in-person public meetings listed above.

Comments must be received by June 7. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email or by any method other than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

State Route 67’s remote location is among its attractions

PHOENIX – After being buried in snow all winter, State Route 67 running from Jacob Lake to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is scheduled to reopen Monday, May 15.

The Arizona Department of Transportation closes SR 67 when park facilities shut down for the winter––usually on December 1––and reopens it when the North Rim is ready to welcome travelers once again. The 40-plus-mile-long route runs through an area that, at 8,500 feet in elevation, sees an average of nine feet of snow each year.

During the winter months, a gate blocks access to SR 67 just south of US 89A in Jacob Lake.

The Grand Canyon National Park website at www.nps.gov/grca has information on lodging, camping and other visitor services available at the North Rim.

For the latest information about highway conditions across Arizona, please visit ADOT’s Traveler Information site at AZ511.gov, call 511 or connect via Twitter (@ArizonaDOT ) or Facebook (facebook.com/AZDOT).

Board of Supervisors adopt National Park Improvement Resolution

FLAGSTAFF – The Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution this week supporting the use of county resources for infrastructure improvements in the United States’ National Parks.

In 2016, the National Park Service estimated a deferred maintenance backlog of nearly $460 million in Coconino County, including necessary repairs to the visitor centers, aging historical structures, trails, sewers, drainage, roads, bridges, tunnels and other vital infrastructure of the county’s six National Parks, Monuments and Recreation Areas.

“The Board of Supervisors recognizes the importance and value of National Parks to both the county and our many visitors,” said Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Liz Archuleta. “Our goal with approving this resolution is that we can help support the necessary maintenance and improvements of these areas.”

Coconino County hosted more than seven million visitors to its National Parks in 2015. These visits brought an estimated $932 million in revenue to local communities adjacent to national parks in the State of Arizona.

“Coconino County’s economic foundation is built on visitation to National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas and public lands,” said Supervisor Art Babbott. “By adequately funding critical infrastructure- water lines, roads wastewater- we can strengthen our economies, improve visitor experience to these wondrous places and protect these landscapes for future generations.”

The County will forward on the resolution to Congressional representatives and the National Association of Counties to do further advocacy during federal budget negotiations.

CAVIAT Board Vacancy at Grand Canyon Unified School District

FLAGSTAFF – Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Risha VanderWey is seeking applicants for appointment to the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT) Governing Board. One vacant seat is eligible to residents of the Grand Canyon Unified School District.

Per CAVIAT Bylaws, the appointment will be a four-year term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Applicants must be Arizona registered voters and residents of the school district for at least one year prior to the date of appointment. Applicants or their spouses can’t be an employee of the district.

Application information:
· Download the application here http://www.coconino.az.gov/schoolboardapplication
· Deadline to submit is Monday, March 13 by 5 p.m.
· Submit by email kgraves@coconino.az.gov (Live signature original required)
· Submit by fax 928-526-1469 (Live signature original required)
· Mail/drop off Coconino County School Superintendent, 2384 N Steves Blvd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004

An advisory committee, consisting of district residents and a current board member will be assembled to conduct interviews and advise Superintendent VanderWey on the appointment.

For more information, please call Kim Graves at the Office of the Coconino County School Superintendent at 928-679-8070 or e-mail: kgraves@coconino.az.gov.

Williams to host next public workshop for Grand Canyon National Park Airport Master Plan

WILLIAMS – The master plan study process for Grand Canyon National Park Airport, owned and operated by the Arizona Department of Transportation, continues with a public information workshop Wednesday, February 15, in Williams.

Those attending the open house, to be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Williams Unified School District, 636 S. Seventh Street, can review and comment on the study team’s forecast of aviation demand, assessment of current airport facility capabilities and suggested facility improvements to meet anticipated demand over the next 20 years.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to update master plans every 10 years.

The Grand Canyon Nation Park Airport Master Plan Study began in fall 2015. The current phase of the study is evaluating two alternatives for enhancing the safety and efficiency of the airport, along with a no-build alternative. The next phase, anticipated to launch in the spring, will present a preferred development concept for the airport.

In addition to public meetings, comments and questions can be provided to the study team online at azdot.gov/gcnairportmasterplan, by phone at 800.574.6334 or by mail to Grand Canyon Airport Master Plan Study, c/o Coffman Associates, 4835 E. Cactus Rd., Ste. 235, Scottsdale, AZ 85254.

For more information on the Grand Canyon Airport and the master plan study, please visit azdot.gov/gcnairportmasterplan.

Coconino Sheriff’s Office Coordinates Rescue of Sky Divers at Grand Canyon

GRAND CANYON – At 1:20 pm Friday January 27, 2017, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport tower to report that two parachutists became stranded in deep snow in the forest.

The two individuals, a student and a sky dive instructor from Paragon Sky Dive, made a jump from 15,000 feet. They were approximately 2 miles off their intended landing zone but were able to land in the forest south of the airport where they encountered deep snow. The ground speed wind at the time was reported at 11.25 mph and the wind chill was 18 degrees.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, National Park Service Rangers, and a backhoe requested by airport staff responded to the area. The backhoe became stuck in the snow and was unable to access the subjects. The Park Service launched their helicopter and located the subjects. The Park Service air crew determined they did not need any medical assistance and flew them back to the South Rim.

Sheriff’s Deputies interviewed the instructor and student. The instructor reported the two had jumped in tandem. The instructor said he had mistakenly jumped too early causing them to miss their landing zone. They walked in the snow approximately ¾ of mile before the helicopter located them. Both subjects reported they were wet and cold due to the type of clothing and footwear they had.

State Route 67 to Grand Canyon’s North Rim to close for winter

State Route 67 leading to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park will close for the winter on Thursday, Dec. 1.

The highway will be blocked to traffic about a half mile from its junction with US 89A at Jacob Lake. With park facilities closed for the winter, the Arizona Department of Transportation doesn’t clear snow from the highway, which leads 43 miles south from US 89A. SR 67 is scheduled to reopen in mid-May along with North Rim lodges, campgrounds and other amenities.

State Route 64 remains open all year to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

ADOT works to inform the public about planned highway restrictions and closures, but it’s possible that unscheduled impacts might occur because of weather or other factors. For the most current information about highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.