Locust Fire update: June 27, 2015 at 8 pm

forestFREDONIA — When the Locust Fire was first discovered on June 15, fire managers met to discuss plans to manage the fire for the benefit of forest health and determined a planning area boundary that would be limited to 3,282 acres in size.

Today, the lightning-caused Locust Fire on the North Kaibab Ranger District near Fredonia, Ariz., reached 2,160 acres, resulting in improved overall forest health, wildlife habitat and community safety in an area that was deemed safe for firefighters to manage wildfire in a forest type identified by the Kaibab National Forest Land and Resources Management Plan as appropriate for management actions.

“We are extremely pleased with the progress of the Locust Fire and the resource objectives that were accomplished to date, including managing this fire in a safe and effective manner in which every firefighter returned home safely,” said North Zone Fire Management Officer Ed Hiatt. “By allowing fire to play its natural role in the forest, we are able to actively build resiliency, improve forest health and help reduce the risk of future high-severity fire in the area.”

Based on a 4-year average, the North Kaibab Ranger District has about 80 lightning-caused fires annually.

“When conditions are right, it is always nice to know that the community understands why we do what we do,” said North Kaibab District Ranger Randall Walker. “When we have the opportunity to make a significant and positive impact in the management of the Kaibab Plateau landscape, it is always good to know that we have positive community support, and today we are pleased with the results our firefighters have achieved over the last 12 days.

Management of the fire is expected to transition from the current Type 3 Team under command of Incident Commander James Pettit, Williams Ranger District Fire Management Officer, Kaibab National Forest, to a Type 4 Team under the command of Incident Commander Justin Perkins on Tuesday. Over the coming days, the local Type 4 Team will continue to monitor and patrol the area while the majority of resource support will start to demobilize and return to their home units.

Forest managers would like to remind the general public that the Rainbow Rim remains open for recreational use. However, the roads within the Locust Fire planning area boundary remain barricaded and motorists are asked not to enter this 3,282-acre area until further notice. The Locust Fire planning area is bounded by Forest Service Road (FSR) 214 on the north, FSR 206 on the east, FSR 293 on the south and FSR 250 on the west.

Locust Fire update: Firefighters manage unplanned and planned ignitions

FREDONIA — The operational period for Monday was unique for North Zone fire managers on the Kaibab Plateau. Firefighters were managing unplanned ignitions and planned prescribed fire ignitions simultaneously; the lightning-caused Locust Fire which was determined to be appropriate to manage for protection and resource management objectives, and at the same time, firefighters implemented prescribed fire in the vicinity of Mile-and-a-Half campground.

Although two distinctly different operations with separate management teams, both fires were managed to achieve similar objectives such as returning fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem, reducing fuel loads and the threat of uncharacteristic wildfires in the future while improving overall forest health.

On Tuesday, the Locust Fire increased slightly in size and is being managed in a predetermined area north of Forest Service Road (FSR) 293, east of FSR 250, south FSR 214, and west of FSR 206, and the Moquitch 4 prescribed fire consumed approximately 90 acres in pine litter and down woody debris fuels.

“Today’s accomplishments included extending our black-lining to the west and finishing up prep work along the boundary lines,” said Locust Fire Incident Commander James Pettit. “Managing natural ignitions allows us to do some good fuels reduction and help bring the forest back to a healthy state.”

Fire managers designed the Moquitch prescribed burn plan with similar goals in mind; to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on the Kaibab Plateau.

“All environmental prescriptions were within the parameters for the Moquitch burn and our objectives were met; however, fire managers decided not to move forward with additional burning until later in the year,” said North Zone Fire Management Officer Ed Hiatt. “Success was achieved, public and firefighter safety was achieved, fuels were reduced and adverse impacts to cultural and natural resources were prevented.”

In terms of benefits to forest health, prescribed fire and managed fires perform very similar roles. The difference is that managed fires are naturally caused, whereas prescribed fires must be planned, analyzed and approved as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act. In the case of the 10,000-acre Moquitch Wildlife Habitat Improvement project area, a detailed burn plan was written and approved in 2013, which took several years to develop.

The Locust Fire operational plan for today is to continue monitoring weather and fire behavior while scouting and preparing for additional blacklining opportunities along the perimeter boundary. Firefighters on the Moquitch 4 prescribed fire will continue to monitor the planning area; no additional firing on this project is planned for the near future.

Locust Fire update: Continues to meet multiple objectives

FREDONIA — Today the Locust Fire has increased to a little more than 200 acres. Weather continues to be a driving factor in helping fire managers determine the strategy for managing the fire for multiple objectives. Some of those objectives are: allowing natural fire to play its role as a disturbance factor in the ecosystem, enhancing wildlife habitat, improving forest health, and reducing potential for uncharacteristic high-severity wildfires in future years.

Today’s movement tracked east, northeast with prevailing wind gusts from south, southwest up to 25 miles per hour. Despite windy conditions, crews completed prepping the perimeter and are masticating smaller fuels into chips, which have a lower fuel classification. The mastication increases the efficiency of the prep-work and provides for firefighter safety.

Fuel classification is part of the National Fire Danger Rating System, in which fuels possessing common characteristics are grouped. Dead fuels are grouped according to 1-, 10-, 100-, and 1000-hour intervals; the time it would take for fire to completely consume that fuel source.

“The Locust Fire is meeting our objectives and behaving the way that we anticipated, thanks to the planning and prepping that was done, which is keeping us well ahead of the game,” said Brandon Allen, Locust Fire Incident Commander trainee. Fire behavior today continued to grow at a steady but persistent rate; roughly 132-feet-per hour.

Tomorrow, fire crews plan to continue chipping fuels around designated perimeter roads and implementing firing operations when necessary for managing the fire.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast calls for continued hot and dry conditions. Fire activity may likely increase as fuels continue to dry out.

Locust Fire grows slowly; continues to benefit forest resources

FREDONIA — The Locust Fire continues to slowly grow near Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Kaibab Ranger District. The lightning-caused fire is located 39 miles south-southeast of Fredonia, Ariz., and northeast of Locust Point. The fire is approximately 37 acres in size and forest officials are managing the fire for resource objectives.

Over the coming weeks, fire crews will manage the fire within a 3,283-acre boundary. Roads, trails, and ridges will help crews maintain low to moderate fire spread within the management area.

The objectives fire managers are working to achieve include returning fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem, reducing accumulated fuels on the forest floor, recycling nutrients into the soil, enhancing wildlife habitat, and protecting the area from future high-intensity wildland fires. To help accomplish these objectives, fire crews are removing vegetation around designated perimeter roads. These and other predefined locations are known as Management Action Points (MAPs) where actions will be taken to slow, redirect, or prevent fire spread, to accomplish stated objectives.

Fire activity consists of low and slow surface fire with four to eight inch flame lengths. The Locust Fire is spreading in all directions but mainly to the east-southeast. For those planning a trip to this area of the forest, please be cautious as smoke may be present in and around the Rainbow Rim Trail during the day and overnight.

The weather forecast shows warm and dry conditions. Fire activity will likely increase as fuels continue to dry in the fire area and smoke may be visible from Arizona Highway 67 and Highway 89A. No road closures are in effect. Motorists are reminded to exercise caution when in the area.

Locust Fire being managed on Kaibab National Forest

FREDONIA — Like the Jolly Fire, the Locust fire is a lightning caused fire in the Kaibab National Forest. The Locust Fire is located approximately 39 miles south-southeast of Fredonia, Arizona northeast of Locust Point near the Rainbow Rim Trail. The fire was discovered by fire personnel on June 15 at approximately noon during an aerial reconnaissance flight.

North Zone fire managers met yesterday to discuss strategies for managing a second fire in the North Kaibab Ranger District, and the possible impacts this managed fire could potentially have on forest visitors.

They plan to allow it to burn to rid the forest of Pine litter, down woody debris and grass fuels. The planning area is bound by Forest Service Road (FSR) 214 on the north, FSR 206 on the east, FSR 293 on the south and FSR 250 on the west. The Rainbow Rim will not be closed during this managed fire, and fire managers are aware of the anticipated increase in visitor use during this weekend’s scheduled bike festival.

Smoke may be visible from FSR 22, FSR 206 and Arizona Highway 67, Highway 89A and the scenic vista viewpoints on the Rainbow Rim. No closures are currently anticipated.