Flagstaff, AZ (5/11/23) – Starting next week, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management begins a week-long prescribed fire project in Coconino County. The 750-acre Observatory RX Burn is located five miles west of Flagstaff, west of the Naval Observatory, and directly south of Interstate 40. The project incorporates State Trust Land and Flagstaff-area Wildland Urban Interface and provides for wildfire risk reduction and benefits forest health.
Project managers plan to begin ignitions daily in the morning starting Monday, May 15, and will implement strategies to limit smoke impacts to I-40 and nearby communities. Those communities include, Bellemont and neighborhoods within the greater Flagstaff-area. The project is planned for five days in order to reduce overnight smoke impacts. With this project, smaller, daily burns can mitigate the drifting and settling of smoke. Project managers designed additional operational procedures to manage nighttime smoke effects by igniting fuel under favorable weather conditions and monitoring evening winds for predicted, sustained windspeeds of 5 mph or more which can assist with proper ventilation and deter smoke from sinking into lower lying elevations. During the day, crews will work to quickly mop up heavy fuels within the burn area that typically produce smoke for long periods of time. While all efforts are being taken to reduce smoke off the project, the public should still expect some impacts.
The project area consists of a Ponderosa Pine environment with blocks broken out by roads, previously prepped hand lines, dozer lines, and topographical features. Prescribed fire projects keep forest fuels from accumulating; therefore, they safeguard communities and infrastructure and help mitigate extreme wildfire behavior.
All prescribed burns, whether broadcast or pile burns, must have approval from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality prior to ignitions. Ignitions are always weather dependent and project work can be postponed or cancelled due to unfavorable or unsafe conditions. The public can view approved prescribed burns on ADEQ’s website: smoke.azdeq.gov. Prescribed fire information can also be found by downloading the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management’s app on the iTunes and Google Play stores.