SMOKE ADVISORY: Whispering Pines Prescribed Burn

Smoke Advisory

Large Prescribed Fire Aerial Ignition Planned for Whispering Pines Area

Payson, Ariz., February 20, 2015—For Immediate Release.  Tonto National Forest fire specialists are hopeful for favorable prescribed fire conditions that will provide an opportunity to treat 3,000 acres in the Whispering Pines area the week of February 23 – 25, 2015.  Beginning Monday, February 23, 2015, fire personnel will hand-fire 200 acres along Forest Road 233.  Residents and visitors to the area can expect to see and smell light to moderate amounts of smoke on Monday during the hand firing operation.

Beginning on Wednesday, February 25, fire specialists will begin aerial ignition of approximately 2,800 acres north of Beaver Valley and west of Whispering Pines.  Residents and visitors to the area can expect to see and smell heavy smoke during this one-day operation.  If possible, residents and visitors are asked to remain indoors with their windows closed, or to leave the area until smoke from the burning operation decreases significantly.  This fire treatment will release a substantial column of smoke, which will be quite visible.

Signs will be posted on roads that are likely to be affected by smoke.  Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through these areas and to slow down for both firefighter and public safety.

Smoke will impact the Mogollon Rim during the day.  Residual smoke will settle over Geronimo Estates, Whispering Pines, Washington Park, Verde Glen, Rim Trail, and Beaver Valley.  Residual smoke from this fire treatment is expected to linger throughout the area through Sunday, March 1, 2015.

Broadcast fire treatments by aerial ignition allows fire specialist to treat very large areas that can be difficult for firefighters to access safely on the ground.  This type of treatment also allows fire managers the option of burning a larger area, under the right conditions, to reduce the amount of vegetation on the forest floor from about 20 – 22 tons per acre to about 5-7 tons per acre; this helps to reduce the catastrophic wildfire danger.  Broadcast fire treatments attempt to mimic a low-intensity fire caused by lightning.  It decreases the amount of woody debris on the forest floor and stimulates the release of nutrients back into the soil, improving the overall soil health.

Prescribed fire treatments are dependent on weather conditions, such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction.  Broadcast fire treatments typically continue for several days and are conducted when fuel moisture content of the vegetation and weather conditions are favorable.  Low-to-moderate winds are needed to carry flames and to dissipate smoke during and after ignition operations and to achieve beneficial effects sought by land managers.  Fire treatments are closely monitored, and suppression actions are taken if fire behavior is not meeting resource management objectives.  Burning under low-intensity conditions protects the natural and cultural resources, as well as decreasing the danger to the public and firefighters.

Tonto National Forest fires specialists are working to reduce the risk of damage from wildfires in the Rim Country, and appreciate the patience, understanding, and support of Rim Country residents.  These fire treatments are a vital component in Rim Country as part of a long-range, landscape-scale fuels reduction strategy that began in 2001.  The goal of these efforts is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, restore natural landscapes, and to develop and foster sustainable forest conditions, watersheds, and wildlife habitat.

Carrie E Templin, Public Affairs Officer
FOREST SERVICE - Tonto National Forest
(602) 225-5290 and (602)677-1267
2324 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85006