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Mon, Nov. 18

What’s that smoke to the west?: Multiple fires burning in ‘natural’ state

The Prescott National Forest conducts aerial ignitions on the Pemberton Fire Wednesday, Aug. 14. (Prescott National Forest/Courtesy)

The Prescott National Forest conducts aerial ignitions on the Pemberton Fire Wednesday, Aug. 14. (Prescott National Forest/Courtesy)

That smoke to the west is likely from multiple fires burning on the Prescott National Forest’s Chino Valley Ranger District.

They were all started by lightning at the beginning of this month, northwest of Prescott.

Wildland firefighters with the Prescott National Forest are beginning to shift some of their focus from the Pemberton Fire to the Sheridan Fire, as of late this past week.

Firefighters have been successful in spreading the Pemberton Fire using hand and aerial ignitions, according to a news release. This was done to support the fire in fulfilling its natural role of reducing dense forest fuels (trees, brush, grass, etc.), Prescott National Forest (PNF) officials have said. Its size as of midday Aug. 15 was 1,173 acres with zero-percent containment.

Smoke from the fires, particularly the Pemberton – which is off Fair Oaks Road, can still be expected to be visible as interior portions continue to consume fuels. Crews spent late last week monitoring and patrolling the Pemberton Fire along established control lines.


The lightning-caused Sheridan Fire, located about 23 miles northwest of Prescott, is burning near Sheridan Mountain on Cedar Mesa.

The fire, which was spotted on Aug. 5, has consumed about 674 acres of juniper, short grass and brush, PNF reported Aug. 16.

Firefighters are conducting aerial ignitions on the slow-burning fire and plan to continue doing so as long as conditions are favorable, PNF officials said. Being that the fire is in a remote area, firefighters are also scouting out the area for roads, trails and natural barriers to use as control lines.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) continue to be in place over the Pemberton and Sheridan fires to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft being used for aerial operations.

Smoke from the Sheridan Fire has been very visible from Prescott and tri-city areas as firefighters conducted aerial ignitions. The public may continue to see smoke as firefighters will continue to scout the area for roads, trails, and natural barriers to use as control lines. 

Fire mangers can significantly reduce the duration of heavy smoke impacts to the public by intentionally conducting ignition operations over the course of a few days compared to an uncontrolled wildfire which could burn for weeks.


According to the PNF, forest managers have the following objectives in mind for the Pemberton Fire:

1) Tactical decisions are based on a risk-informed approach that limits firefighter and aviator exposure to only what is necessary to meet incident objectives with the highest probability of success.

2) Restoration of juniper grasslands, pinon-juniper evergreen shrub and pinon-juniper woodland is achieved using moderate to high fire behavior, creating mosaic patterns on mesa tops and hillsides, and low severity fire within drainage bottoms.

3) Restoration of chaparral vegetation type is achieved by utilizing moderate to high fire behavior, creating a mosaic pattern of burned/unburned areas.

4) Fire impacts to private property and private and public infrastructure are minimized in and around private inholdings and the communities of Fair Oaks, Rancho Diamante and Long Meadow.

5) Suppression impacts to natural and cultural values are minimized.

6) Impacts to range infrastructure, improvements and operations are minimized on the Spider and Long Meadow Cattle Ranches.

The public can obtain additional information via: the web —; Twitter — @PrescottNF; Facebook —; and

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