Friday, June 6, 2014

On The Mountain Lying Down

The "mountain lying down" is the Kaibab Plateau of the northern Arizona Strip. It's a high (8,000 feet plus) densely forested plateau with a broadly rounded top. A broad upswell in the land that triggers a lot more precipitation (mostly snow in the winter) than the surrounding high desert areas.

["Wildland Fire In Progress" marquee, De Motte Park, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona]

But it has no craggy mountain peaks. Even though the landform was lifted by the Earth's tectonic forces to be so high in elevation, it never was crunched into peaks. Thus to the Paiute Indians it was called Kaibab, the mountain that is lying down.

It's a fascinating portion of the remote Arizona Strip, that area north of Grand Canyon up to the Utah state line. It forms the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, as the ever scouring Colorado River far below keeps exposing more cliffs and side canyons to be widened by erosion of water and gravity.

And it's a wildfire ecosystem. Fire is a natural part of the habitats here, especially the Ponderosa pine-spruce-fir-aspen forests. The trees, and the animal species that live there, are well adapted to periodic fires.

So when a thunderstorm on May 23, 2014 produced two wildfires from lightning strikes to trees, the one close to North Rim Village was put out, because it was too dangerous to let grow. The other lightning strike fire was about 20 miles into the backcountry and so let to burn under the intense management of fire personnel from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other cooperating agencies. It was named the Galahad Fire, which you can read more about on the InciWeb Incident Information System website.