Saguaro National Park has reopened trails and campgrounds in the Rincon Mountains after the Deer Head and Jackalope Fires. Hikers are cautioned to stay on trails, especially in the burned areas.
“Though fire behavior was mild throughout the burned area, it is possible to encounter hazards while hiking,” according to John Thornburg, Fire Management Officer for Saguaro National Park. “Partially burned trees may be weakened and drop branches and stumps may have burned underground causing unstable soil which could collapse if stepped on.”
In addition, biologists caution that the fire has burned away vegetation which had been holding soil in place. This vegetation removal increases the risk of erosion. Travel off-trail in a burned area would further weaken the soil structure and increase the risk of water capture, flood, and erosion.
The Deer Head Fire was first reported on July 24 and was contained at 1,097 acres on August 15, in an area which has burned nine previous times since 1937.
Fire is a natural and essential renewal process in the forested ecosystems of Saguaro National Park. Frequent, low to moderate intensity fires, in woodlands and forests, recycle nutrients back into the soil. Fires reduce pine needles, leaves, grass, downed logs, seedling trees, and shrubs on the forest floor to nutrient-rich ash, which fertilizes the soil. Many fire-adapted plants depend upon fire for germination and growth. Large trees usually survive. In places, fire can move into the forest canopy, killing trees, which are rapidly replaced by new plant growth that thrives on sunlight. A variety of fires on the landscape, over time, results in a shifting mosaic of vegetation that creates diverse habitat for wildlife. Many animals like to forage along the edges of burned areas and find cover in unburned areas. Standing dead trees provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds.