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The Coyote Park Project controlled burn sends smoke skyward on Thursday, Oct. 26. Smoke from this 1,900-acre burn is what filled Sedona and Verde Valley skies earlier this morning. 

The Coyote Park Project controlled burn sends smoke skyward on Thursday, Oct. 26. Smoke from this 1,900-acre burn is what filled Sedona and Verde Valley skies earlier this morning.

Smoke is predicted to drain down Munds Canyon and impact Sedona and possibly the Village of Oak Creek in the evening and early morning hours. By each afternoon, smoke is predicted to rise and move toward the east/northeast and will be seen by motorists in the area on Lake Mary Road.

The Sawmill burn is also affecting Sedona and the Verde Valley. The burn area is seven miles southeast of Mormon Lake, east of Lake Mary Road. Smoke is predicted to move toward the east/northeast and may impact local communities. Cooling temperatures in the evenings may cause smoke to settle in the Happy Jack area and drain down nearby canyons of the Verde Valley.

TONIGHT: Wind direction is expected shift tonight around midnight to northerly winds: smoke will move south.

Additionally, as the air temperatures cool in the evening, smoke will settle into and move down the canyons and drainages. Smoke will drain down nearby Munds Canyon moving smoke into lower Oak Creek Canyon. Smoke settling into Woods, Rattlesnake and other nearby canyons combined with the north winds will create smoke impacts to the Verde Valley.

Moderate to heavy smoke impacts are expected for Camp Verde, Village of Oak Creek, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Cottonwood, and Munds Park. Smoke impacts are possible for Strawberry, Pine, Happy Jack, and Clints Well particularly earlier in the evening as winds shift from west to north.

The Coyote Park prescribed burn project is one of several projects to treat areas that are listed as Mexican Spotted Owl Protected Activities Centers. These special burns are longer in duration and expected to produce more dense smoke than what is normally produced since the PACs have not seen wildfire in many years and have accumulated large fuel loads in the area.

Typically, fire managers avoid using prescribed fire in PACs in order to preserve habitat. However, the Forest Service has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the owls in these PACs, while simultaneously studying owls in different PACs not being treated with prescribed fire.

Introducing fire into these areas is also important to help restore the ecological integrity of the area and reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the future.

Given the complexity of introducing fire in PAC areas while at the same time trying to preserve vital habitat, burning will be slower and more methodical. Burn ignitions will last several days, as opposed to being a single-day operation.

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