2017-10-26: Evening smoke impacts to Verde Valley from Coyote Park project
Incident: Fall 2017 Prescribed Burns Prescribed Fire
Thursday, October 26, 2017: Two 650 acre burns (for a total of 1300 acres) on the Coyote Park prescribed burn project were performed Wednesday, October 25 and Thursday, October 26. The project is near Munds Park, south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Glow from prescribed burn activity was visible along I-17 last night.
Today: Light to moderate smoke impacts from Wednesday evening's nighttime cooling were experienced in Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, and the Verde Valley today. There is a large smoke plume currently visible from Flagstaff, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, I-17, I-40, and much of the surrounding area. Winds are from the west today, moving smoke east, impacting Mormon Lake and the Lake Mary corridor.
Tonight: Wind direction is expected shift tonight around midnight to northerly winds: smoke will move south. Additionally, as the air temperatures cool in the evening, smoke will settle into and move down the canyons and drainages. Smoke will drain down nearby Munds Canyon moving smoke into lower Oak Creek Canyon. Smoke settling into Woods, Rattlesnake, and other nearby canyons combined with the north winds will create smoke impacts to the Verde Valley. Moderate to heavy smoke impacts are expected for Camp Verde, Village of Oak Creek, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Cottonwood, and Munds Park. Smoke impacts are possible for Strawberry, Pine, Happy Jack, and Clints Wellparticularly earlier in the evening as winds shift from west to north.
The Coyote Park prescribed burn project is one of several projects to treat areas that are listed as Mexican Spotted Owl Protected Activities Centers (PACs). These special burns are longer in duration and 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. Read more in the News Release: Prescribed burns planned for week of October 23 (posted October 20, 2017).
Map of the Coyote Park prescribed burn