Prescribed-burns Planned in Grand Teton

Slash piles from fuels reduction work
will be burned late fall/early winter
September 17, 2009
Teton interagency fire personnel and Grand Teton National Park natural resource managers are planning a 182-acre prescribed burn as part of a 4,000-acre native rangeland restoration project. The Elbo West Prescribed Fire will cover an area on Antelope Flats that lies southeast of the Ditch Creek Road and Teton Science Schools’ Kelly campus.

This project involves a multi-stage effort to convert old pastureland to native vegetation as directed by the 2007 Bison and Elk Management Plan for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park. The Elbo West burn unit was an irrigated hayfield prior to the 1970s. Despite a decades-long recovery time, non-native grasses—and a host of noxious weeds—still dominate this area.

Another project in Grand Teton involves a 208-acre unit located on Signal Mountain. The Signal Mountain Prescribed Fire would mitigate a potential threat to life, and damage to property, from wildfire by reducing accumulated vegetation and downed trees and creating a mosaic of burned and unburned areas. Reducing the density and continuity of fuels (trees and underbrush) using prescribed fire would increase options for wildfire containment and provide for better protection of Signal Mountain Lodge, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart and the Brinkerhoff Cabin in the event of a wildfire. Because of higher than normal fuel moisture this year, the Signal Mountain Prescribed Fire may not take place this fall; however, fire managers have a plan ready in case weather and fuel conditions become favorable to meet project objectives.

Interagency fire personnel will also burn several “slash piles” in the park after early winter snowfall occurs. The primary target areas are Death Canyon, Ditch Creek and Flagg Ranch. These piles are mostly in developed areas where fire crews have removed dead wood and brush from the forest floor to increase firefighter and public safety and to lower the risk of losing structures in the event of a wildfire. Firefighters place the slash in tepee-shaped piles and let them cure for a year before burning them.

Prescribed fire ignitions will proceed only when favorable weather and fire behavior conditions exist. Smoke will be evident during the day of the burn, and may persist for several days after—especially in mountain valleys during early morning and evening hours. Local residents and visitors should exercise caution in the vicinity of the prescribed fires. Minimal traffic restrictions may occur to allow for public and firefighter safety, and fire equipment access.