Fuels Treatment: Hualapai Mountains
A PDF version with photos can be found below.
Much has been written about the intensity and size of fires on our western public lands over recent decades as mega fires have occurred, altering landscapes around the west and destroying other values. The subject of mega fires has been studied in academia and explored by many. The result has been an awakening about the negative consequences of over a century of total wildland fire suppression.
Compounding the issue of mega fires has been the increase in our country’s population and the development of inholdings of private property created during times of the Homestead Act, enacted in 1862. These factors have created a perfect storm and a need for solutions.
Knowledge gained from research and the experience of fire managers has provided possible solutions for resource managers searching for ways to mitigate damage to natural resources and private property. The solution was determined to be an attempt to recreate pre-settlement conditions across our landscapes by reintroducing fire where possible, providing vegetation manipulation using mechanical and other means, and in some cases logging and firewood sales.
Public and State Trust Lands around Arizona, and in Kingman specifically, are among many locations where various techniques have been used to prepare for defense of inholdings of private property and other values at risk from wildfire. Starting in the 1990s, fuels reduction programs which thin dense brush and trees began to be implemented to address the problem of fuel loading. Prescribed fires, both natural ignition and intentionally ignited, have been used at times of high fuel moisture and cooler temperatures to reduce fuel loading. Other strategies, such as those used in the Hualapai Mountains area to create fire breaks, have also been used.
When a wildfire occurs after treatments, firefighters have enhanced abilities to protect private holdings by steering fire away from values at risk. At Pine Lake fire breaks had been constructed and frequently maintained years before the lightning ignited the Ridge Fire. These breaks in continuous fuels constructed among the chaparral near the community of Pine Lake, provided fire managers appropriate time to prepare if the Ridge Fire had continued to move in that direction. Additionally, prescribed fires conducted close to the communities at risk had sufficiently reduced fuel loading that aided firefighters in stopping fire movement. Prescribed fire treatments previously conducted near the Ridge Fire appear to have directly aided firefighters in stopping fire spread in Moss and Blue Tank drainages.
State, county, municipal and federal partners have all contributed to fuels management projects in the Hualapai Mountains through combination of directed funds and grant funding when available.Many communities have completed and implemented fire plans to guide their actions.
Our hope is that our experience on the Ridge Fire, documented by photos and maps included here, can be a tool to help our communities understand the importance of these treatments for the protection of wildland resources and the communities they serve.