Contrary to popular belief, not all forest fires are bad. Sure, the ones that are started by careless campers, or arson, or that rage out of control and threaten homes and businesses, those are bad. But when it is a controlled, or managed fire, it is actually good for the forest. Right now at the North Rim, there are a several fires burning that are being managed as part of the natural ecological system that has functioned for 10,000 years. Forest fires are natural. There would still be fire from lightning even if humans weren’t around.
Yesterday, I was witness to a remarkably efficient fire crew, getting ready to burn some of the “piles” that have been sitting along the border between the Kaibab National Forest and the Grand Canyon National Park since last summer. These piles are dead and downed wood that was gathered and stacked by volunteers, to clean up the forest floor. By doing this, it ensures that if there were to be a wildfire, started naturally by lightening, it wouldn’t burn as hot and kill the trees. The picture below is not very clear, but it was the only one I could find of fuel piles.
So, these guys, about 20 or so of them, arrived early in the morning out by the entrance station. They started taking tools and equipment out to the burn area, and setting up a portable water tank. Then they assembled one of the biggest sprinkler systems I have ever seen.
After the fire crew got the water tanks assembled, the water trucks started coming. They continued to arrive throughout the day, keeping the tanks filled. Then, the fire guys started the sprinklers to wet the trees in the area where they planned to burn. They will continue to spray the trees with water during the burn to keep the trees from burning. They are also going to do this burn at night so the entrance station will have minimal impact from smoke during the day.
I thought this whole process was very interesting, as I have never seen the forest crew in action. I can’t wait to see how things work out for this managed burn.