Thinning on the Coconino National Forest Helped Contain the Slide Fire

May 29, 2014

Last week, high winds carried embers beyond the Slide Fire’s containment lines. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, previous forest treatment projects helped keep the fire from spreading toward Flagstaff.

Crews thin areas of the Coconino National Forest.
Credit Tim McDonnell/Climate Desk

In 2006 as part of a timber sale, crews from the Coconino National Forest thinned a large area west of Highway 89A near Flagstaff. According to officials, last week firefighters responded to more than a hundred spot fires that ignited north of Forest Road 535, the Slide Fire’s northern boundary.

Bill Morse is the Slide Fire Information Officer.

“I have to say with quite certainty that those previous treatments, the preventative mitigation that was done by the national forest, had a huge impact on stopping the Slide Fire,” he says.

Morse says, despite 30-mile-an-hour winds, many of the spot fires self-extinguished because they lacked fuel. Others burned slowly until crews arrived.

“If it had the fuels to burn, who’s to say it wouldn’t have just kept on going? … We can’t do much about the weather or the terrain, so we can eliminate those fuels … In this case, the work was done ahead of time and it paid off,” he says.

According to Morse, forest managers have been preparing for wildfire in the Oak Creek Canyon area for years. And a key part of that has been the removal of light brush, dead limbs and small trees that can cause fires to spike in size and intensity.