The 1,106-acre prescribed burn named the Sunset Campground prescribed fire is scheduled to occur over a period of several days, as weather conditions permit, between August 10 and 31, 2011. Should burning conditions not materialize earlier in the month, fire managers will assess smoke management considerations prior to any ignition late in August to avoid unnecessarily effecting visitor activities over Labor Day weekend. The burn is located on the west side of the main park road, near Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon NP and on adjoining lands to the west on the Dixie NF.
The Sunset Campground prescribed burn is intended to reduce wildland fire hazards to visitors, park infrastructure and adjoining private and public lands.
Rob MacWhorter, Dixie National Forest Supervisor said, "The Sunset Campground prescribed burn is an interagency effort between the US Forest Service and National Park Service. "It's intended to restore forest and park ecosystems and better protect high use developed areas on both the forest and park."
The burn will only be ignited if weather and fuel conditions are appropriate and sufficient firefighting resources are available. The project will begin with a black-lining operation along the boundaries of the burn unit on the first day, followed by aerial ignition of the interior of the unit on the second day. Once the area is ignited, it will actively burn for 1-2 days and then smolder for another few days. The fire will be closely monitored until declared out.
Through careful planning by the agencies, this prescribed burn will be conducted with the health and safety of area residents, visitors and wildland fire fighters as the highest priority. Adhering to the carefully-developed fire prescription allows the burn to achieve both ecological and fire safety objectives. Public lands will remain open during this prescribed fire with the exception of Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon NP and some adjoining areas of the Dixie NF. There may also be some short-term traffic delays in the vicinity of the burn. Visitors to Bryce Canyon NP and Dixie NF and area residents may see or smell smoke from this prescribed fire. Smoke on park roadways may be a hazard and scenic visibility may be reduced in certain areas. At night and in the early morning, residents in the Bryce Valley region may experience smoke because of atmospheric inversions.
The future benefits of restoring the health of the ecosystem and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires and threats to developed areas is vital to maintaining the integrity of the resources at Bryce Canyon National Park and the adjoining areas of Dixie National Forest. Jeff Bradybaugh, Bryce Canyon NP Superintendent said, “Using prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat and restore forest health helps sustain Bryce Canyon’s long-term appeal to the visiting public and the economic benefits they bring to the tourism industry in the area.”