Coconino National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Flagstaff, Arizona — Several prescribed burns are planned next week near Munds Park on the Flagstaff Ranger District and seven miles southeast of Mormon Lake on the Mogollon Rim Ranger District most of these prescribed burns will be used to introduce fire in the habitat of the Mexican spotted owl.
The 1,200-acre Sawmill project is scheduled to begin Tuesday evening at approximately 5 p.m. and is located on the Mogollon Rim Ranger District about six miles southeast of Mormon Lake on the east side of Lake Mary Road.
The Munds Park and Coyote Park projects are planned to begin Tuesday evening on the Flagstaff Ranger District on the east side of Interstate 17 immediately south of the community of Munds Park and also one mile north of Munds Park and will eventually cover more than 1,900 acres in total over the three nights.
The Sawmill and Coyote Park prescribed burn projects will treat areas that are listed as Mexican Spotted Owl Protected Activities Centers (PACs). Each burn will be longer in duration and is expected to produce more dense smoke than what is normally produced since the PACs have not seen wildfire in many years and have accumulated large fuel loads in the area.
Typically, fire managers avoid using prescribed fire in PACs in order to preserve habitat. However, the Forest Service has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the owls in these PACs, while simultaneously studying owls in different PACs not being treated with prescribed fire. Introducing fire into these areas is also important to help restore the ecological integrity of the area and reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the future.
Given the complexity of introducing fire in PAC areas while at the same time trying to preserve vital habitat, burning will be slower and more methodical. Burn ignitions will last several days, as opposed to being a single-day operation.
Due to the extreme fuel loading in the area of the Sawmill and Coyote Park projects, ignitions will begin in the evening when temperatures are cooler and relative humidity is higher. This will allow fire managers to better control fire activity and provide for safer conditions. However, this means smoke will likely drain down canyons nearby and impact communities such as Munds Park and possibly the Village of Oak Creek during the evening and early morning hours.
Favorable weather and ventilation are forecasted during daytime hours, with winds predicted to transport and disperse smoke toward the northeast.
Prescribed burns are always dependent upon weather and wind conditions, which can differ drastically across the forest. Prescribed burns are also subject to approval from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, so all or some of these burns could be canceled if conditions are not suitable.
Mogollon Rim Ranger District
Flagstaff Ranger District
Munds Park and Coyote Park Projects
Notifications of upcoming prescribed burns are provided regularly by news releases throughout the season and also by the following online resources: