THE GUADALUPE WILDFIRE
Since its beginning, the Malpai Borderlands Group has worked to encourage all the land management agencies to allow fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem whenever circumstances allow. The Coronado National Forest has proven to be a dependable partner in this endeavor, having conducted five different prescribed burns in the Peloncillo Mountains over the last twenty years. The Peloncillo Programmatic Plan facilitates prescribed burning and also the management of naturally ignited fire for the benefit of wildlife habitat, watershed function and forage production. The Guadalupe Wildfire is a good example of the latter.
On June 2nd, smoke was observed on the south side of Guadalupe Peak in the Peloncillo Mountains just inside the New Mexico side of the state line. Coronado Forest fire investigators determined the cause to have been a lightning strike on the evening of June 1st. This determination allowed District Ranger Kevin Warner more latitude in managing the fire than if it had been human caused.
A strategy was developed to build line at natural terrain barriers and allow the fire to move to the barriers. Where needed, burn outs were used between the fire line and the approaching fire. This robs the fire of fuel and forces it to stop, absent high winds that can possibly start spot ignitions. This strategy is designed to enhance firefighter safety in rough and remote country while still protecting structures and other valuable property. The management of this fire was made easier because prescribed burns had been conducted over some of the same terrain over the past two decades. That kept the fire intensity at a manageable level.
Slowed by a couple of moisture pulses moving up from Mexico, the Guadalupe Fire still burned for six days and covered some 5,900 acres. Within the fire perimeter, patches of terrain burned at varying intensities and a few spots remained unburned. This resulted in a mosaic that aids wildlife by creating edge effects and opening up brush choked areas.
Altogether this fire burned on parts of the grazing allotments of three different ranches. The communication between the Coronado Forest personnel and the affected ranches was exemplary throughout the period the fire was burning. The action taken in response to the Guadalupe WildFire has reinforced the importance of public land managers and ranchers working together in partnership to improve our landscape.
Follow this link to learn more about the Hog Fire in the Malpai Boderlands Group area.
For information about the HOG Fire click on the link below for KUAT's Arizona Week program from July 17, 2015.