Cottonwood Burn 10/11/2007
The Cottonwood Burn in the Peloncillo Mountains had actually been ignited south of the Geronimo Trail Road the previous summer and had impacted around 2000 acres before being shut down when nearby wildfires demanded the resources. This burn was originally planned for 6,000 acres on both sides of Geronimo Trail Road. However, due to concerns about possibly damaging grass plants on the south side by burning them in consecutive years, the decision was made to only burn on the north side this year, thus reducing the targeted area by 1200 acres. The purpose of the burn, as stated in the Peloncillo Comprehensive Fire Plan, was “to maintain the current mosaic of woodlands, shrub lands and grasslands in the course of slowing woody plant encroachment”. Because this fire was being conducted under the comprehensive plan, no extension, revision or additional review of the burn plan was necessary in order to re-initiate burning. It was necessary for favorable weather and fuel conditions to exist leading up to the burn and, fortunately, we had both. In an effort to avoid the kind of interruption that had occurred in 2006, this year the fire was ignited on the earliest date that was judged conducive for conditions that would allow the burn to accomplish its goals. The day of ignition, June 5th, high winds developed late in the afternoon and the fire crew did well to halt further ignition and secure a perimeter. The fire continued burning inside the temporary perimeter over the next couple of days. When the wind abated on the 8th, ignition of the rest of the burn was allowed to proceed. On June 9th, the crew wrapped up the burn at 2800 acres and a job well done. Altogether the Cottonwood Burn totaled approximately 4800 acres. Primary credit for the success of this prescribed burn goes to the Douglas District of the Coronado National Forest, whose fire crew was in charge of the burn. Assistance came from other districts of the Coronado, as well as from some other national forest crews and from the Portal Volunteer Fire Department and the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge. On June 11th, the entire Malpai region received upwards of half an inch of rain. This was the first time in twenty-one years the area had seen that much rainfall in one day between the 1st and the 15th of June. While the rain was good for the Cottonwood Burn, it caused a different outcome for our other prescribed burn.