[audubon-news] Audubon's Sam Campana on Brush Fire

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: #Audubon Board of Directors <IMCEAEX-_O=AUDUBON_OU=NATIONAL_CN=RECIPIENTS_CN=BoardOfDirectors@xxxxxxxxxxx>,#Audubon Staff <audstaff@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 13:22:33 -0400

Contact: Sam Kathryn Campana
fax:  480-990-3249


Scottsdale, Arizona, May 2, 2002 - "The National Audubon Society's sanctuary
in Southern Arizona was almost totally burned in a wildfire that swept
through the 8,000 acre historic ranch site yesterday.

"The Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, donated to Audubon 30 years ago, has
been fenced from cattle grazing since then.  The habitat was the richest and
lushest in this valley -- and therefore had significant fuel for this fire.
Also, Arizona has been in drought conditions for months so the effects of
the fire were even more extreme.  (Ironically, the Research Ranch had
prepared for a controlled burn with the Bureau of Land Management, so the
science of what happened and will occur in the future will be well

"We lost two outlying storage barns - one a hay barn and the other for stock
- on the property.  But the directors' homes, the Grasslands Conference
Center, the ranch staff's homes, dormitories, the guest cottage, the main
barn, and maintenance shop were all saved.  Dr. Linda Kennedy, Assistant
Director of the Ranch, and Federico Gonzalez from our maintenance team,
stayed on the property as the fire swept down on the main campus about noon
on Tuesday, April 30th. 

"Freddy increased the swaths already cut for fire breaks with a tractor,
removed stored kerosene to prevent an explosion, and hosed down the
buildings again and again as the fire approached. They fought the fire,
fanned by high winds, with garden hoses.  The flames came right up to the
exterior walls of two homes.  The Appleton home on the property adjacent to
the Ranch was totally destroyed. 

"The 8,000 acre grasslands were all burned with the exception of
approximately 500 acres.  Most of the trees were saved -- many of them due
to volunteers having cleared the undergrowth and deadwood within the last
few weeks in preparation for a controlled burn or a wildfire.  Riparian and
oak savannah habitats had a rapid burn, and the mortality rate for
fire-adapted trees should be low given the rapid progression of the fire. 

"The wildfire scorched over 38,000 acres in Sonoita and Elgin.  Much of the
extensive shrubbery on the property was burned. Early assessments indicate
most of the wildlife will survive. A herd of deer known to Dr. Kennedy is
safe, coyotes howled last night, and turkeys were heard gobbling but not
seen.  No change in birdlife has been seen - they are perhaps more active at
the feeders close to the homes due to loss of habitat. 

"Dr., Kennedy, whose specialty is sacaton grass, indicates there could be an
upside to this fire. Invasive grasses were also burned to the ground. If
enough resources and volunteers can be amassed, we have a rare opportunity
to fight these non-native grasses from returning. Audubon will want to
replant native species and give the Research Ranch a fresh start."

Volunteers are needed immediately to assist with security, documentation of
the conditions on the Research Ranch, clean up, repairs, and a variety of
other tasks.  Anyone with available time and interest may contact Sam
Campana, Executive Director of Audubon Arizona (480-990-1221), or Tucson
Audubon Society at (520) 629-0510 for more details and a schedule.

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