ClimateWire: Forest Service lets blaze burn in Ariz. A new era?

The article is here. I think it’s public. Quotes Andy Stahl.

The Forest Service is letting a wildfire burn near the Grand Canyon, and fire experts are thrilled.

Officials are allowing the Castle Fire to burn roughly 19,000 acres of Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest, saying the fire will clear out dead vegetation and make the ecosystem healthier. Experts applauded that decision, saying it’s an overdue pivot from the agency’s history of heavy suppression.

“The Forest Service has been slow to make that transition, and even slower to talk about it,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

As climate change exacerbates fire weather, officials are also grappling with the 20th century’s legacy of aggressive suppression. The absence of fire left forests overloaded with fuel, meaning future blazes would be more intense. Some experts call it the Smokey Bear effect.

The Forest Service is backing off full-scale suppression, Stahl said, but officials have been reluctant to communicate that until now. Public pressure to extinguish fires anywhere near settlements remains strong.

The Forest Service has highlighted the fire’s ecological benefits throughout the blaze, something observers say used to be an afterthought.

“The fire has burned through … a significant amount of dead and down trees and some mixed conifer species. By allowing the wildfire to naturally burn through this area, the ecosystem will become healthier and more resilient,” the agency said in a news release.

9 thoughts on “ClimateWire: Forest Service lets blaze burn in Ariz. A new era?”

    • FWIW:

      Warm Fire Recovery Project


      The Warm Fire was started by lightning on June 8. The fire met the criteria for wildland fire use spelled out in the Kaibab National Forest’s land and fire management plans, and federal wildland fire management policies. The forest managed the as a wildland fire use fire for approximately two and a half weeks.

      However, the fire escaped the boundaries prescribed for wildland fire use and burned about 40,000 acres in the central part of the Kaibab Plateau from June 25, when fire managers shifted from a wildland fire use to a suppression strategy, until it was contained on July 4. Much of that area burned at a high intensity and suffered severe fire effects.

      The Kaibab National Forest and its partners are now developing a series of post-fire monitoring, research and recovery projects, and reviewing management of the fire to learn lessons about future wildland fire use management on the Kaibab Plateau.

      • The photos do speak for themselves. Are you saying that this was a good outcome? Even the rehab looks failed, after what, 15 years.

        I also remind you that Yarnall Hill was also a let-burn fire. That fire was, in turn affected by another let-burn fire in Colorado. However, I do get it that those lands have to burn, at some time, or another. It is important to reduce the risks of large fires, during the middle of fire season. Put those fires out, when it is safe, during the peak of fire season.

        • Hi Larry,

          According to official records of the 2006 Warm Fire, fire severity was as follows:

          Low: 38,360 acres
          Moderate: 4,475 acres
          High: 15,805 acres

          The majority of the acres burned in this wildfire happened between June 26 and June 27. I’m going to guess it was very windy and hot on that day.

          Not sure what your point is Larry, or what you really think should’ve happened with a lightening caused fire burning in a fire-dependent ecosystem.

          • Oh, GEEEE! Who could’ve predicted that the weather in late June would turn hot and windy?!? How many millions were spent on putting it out? How many units had to work the fire, when others were being ignited? Those numbers don’t really match up with the actual conditions we see today.

            We’ve seen MANY examples of let-burn fires gone bad. These escapes are not good for the forests, not cost-effective for us humans, and not healthy for us humans, as well. The easy solution is to ban let-burn fires during the summer.

  1. I don’t know how rare this is.. a few summers ago, I drove past a WFU fire for at least a months.

    Perhaps those places (where fires are allowed to burn because there are no/few structures) are usually far from larger news outlets, so we hear about them less.

    Perhaps also the weather this year having been a wet, late spring (at least here) has made conditions that allow a safer use of WFU.

    I couldn’t easily find the WFU statistics at NIFC but I’m sure they’re there.

  2. It’s strange to ask if it’s a new era as the Kaibab and Coconino have both been doing this pretty regularly for years. The Coconino is currently managing (as opposed to full suppression) at least it’s 8th wildfire this season.

  3. We took another trip up the Chetco river yesterday. The Checto Bar fire was caused by the FS refusing to put out a 1/4 acre lighting fire, then spending millions playing with it for a month until the East winds came up and nearly burn the coastal town of Brookings, Oregon. It would of to if it wasn’t for the timber industry fire fighters.
    The devastation makes me feel sick each time I see it. The Forest supervisor and district ranger should of been arrested for the destruction of invaluable resources. (They have have since retired or moved.)
    There was nothing good about this fire.
    So far this year, the first in many, there haven’t been many fires and the ones there have been have been fought aggressively and contained. Let’s hope no fires get stared on FS land before the rains.


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