In early November of 2017, a group of wildland firefighters and forest managers came together to support the common goal of making our forest healthier; by reintroducing fire back into the ecosystem. The City of Flagstaff Fire Department, The Nature Conservancy, Summit Fire District, members of the Bear Jaw Fire Crew, and a group from the Northern Arizona University chapter of the Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE), all participated in the 2 day, prescribed fire operations within the Observatory Mesa Natural Area.
(Watch as wildland fire crews put low severity fire back into the forest during the 2017 prescribed fire operation Observatory Mesa RX 2)
Historically, this type of low severity fire was no stranger to the ponderosa pine forest ecosystem of the Southwest. For centuries, this frequent, and low severity fire regime would clean the forest floor of dense small trees and woody debri, recycle important nutrients, and support a biodiverse forest resilient to drought, insect attacks, and disease.
Prescribed fire is only one part of forest management in our area. In many parts of our forests, fire crews and forest managers must first thin our overcrowded forest, before they are able to safely reintroduce fire. For several years, City staff, forest managers, and community partner organizations have been working together to do this as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). The operations on Observatory Mesa serve as a great example of what is possible, when a diverse group of organizations supported by the community of Flagstaff, come together to keep our forests healthy.
(Watch more low severity, surface fire during the Observatory Mesa prescribed fire operation Observatory Mesa RX 3)
On the afternoon of October 25th, 2017, the Flagstaff Fire Department and resources from the Coconino National Forest responded to reports of a wildfire on city owned land within the Observatory Mesa Natural Area. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but given the location, a human caused ignition is suspected. The Miller Fire occurred in a forested area on Observatory Mesa that had been aggressively thinned in 2015 as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). Based on the known pre-treatment disorder, and current weather and fire conditions at the time of ignition, the fire would have been much worse in terms of size, severity, duration, cost, and difficulty to control.
The FWPP treatment in this area has created a forest structure that is resilient to high severity wildfire, and allowed firefighters to respond, engage, and manage the wildfire in a safe and effective manner. Moving forward, and as conditions allow, the Flagstaff Fire Department is planning to conduct prescribed burns within Observatory Mesa this Fall, 2017.
Please see the following link for a map of the work done on Observatory Mesa, and the location of the Miller Fire. Observatory Mesa Miller Fire Location
Up on Observatory Mesa, nestled above downtown Flagstaff in the Rio de Flag Watershed, Matt Millar monitors the progress of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project’s forest thinning operations. For full story click here
If on home page, click on title above for full story.
On Monday (July 18th) the contractor will begin construction of a temporary logging road near the base of Mt. Elden. The temporary logging road will use a short segment of the Arizona Trail (which connects Rocky Ridge and Lower Oldham Trail). Please see map FWPP_Phase1_TempRd#2_07152016. We will post signs/barricades (see photo on right) on both ends of this trail to inform hikers/bikers about the road work. Also, the temporary logging road will be within the natural gas pipeline corridor – which includes a couple of segments of the Pipeline Trail, but it shouldn’t warrant closing those trail segments.
The contractor started construction of the temporary logging road at the Schultz Creek Trailhead (i.e. utilizing approx. ½ mile of the Schultz Creek Trail – which if unaware was an old logging road from year’s past). The contractor will finish up the road work near Schultz Creek Trailhead on Monday, July 18 and at that time we will re-open that segment of Schultz Creek Trail as well as Rocky Ridge Trail.
- Temporary logging road construction near Schultz Creek Trailhead will be completed on Monday, July 18.
- Schultz Creek Trail and Rocky Ridge Trail will reopen on Monday, July 18.
- Temporary logging road construction will begin near the base of Mt. Elden on Monday, July 18.
- We will post No Public Access signs on both ends of the Arizona Trail affected by this closure.
- It is difficult to determine how long the temporary logging road construction will take in this area, but given the timeline of the work they did near Schultz Creek Trailhead, estimate 10-12 days.
- Logging operations for FWPP Phase 1 can begin as early as the middle of August – but we will keep you apprised of the actual starting date when that becomes available.
For the Rocky Ridge & Schultz Creek Trail Re-route Map (7-8-16) click on title above or here: FWPP_Phase1_Trail_TempRdConst_ReRoutes.
As part of ongoing efforts of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP), contractors will begin improving and building temporary logging roads within the project area starting as early as this week. For more info click on title above or here: COC-NR-07-07-2016-LoggingRoadConstruction.