The Granite Mountain Hotshots did structure protection during the Thompson Ridge Fire near Jemez, N.M.


The fire that burned through the research site of the University of Arizona's Critical Zone Observatory in June nearly destroyed the headquarters and historical buildings of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Three firefighting crews, including the Granite Mountain Hotshots, set "burnout" fires to protect the buildings on June 6. On June 30, 19 of those firefighters died while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire near their home base in Prescott.

"We are eternally grateful for those efforts," said Robert Parmenter, science director of the preserve.

Parmenter said the Thompson Ridge Fire, which affected 24,000 of the preserve's 89,000 acres, was mostly a low- and moderate-severity burn.

He said the University of Arizona's Critical Zone Observatory will produce "an amazing data set" that, combined with other research being conducted at the preserve, make it "one of the best fire-study sites in the West.

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is a federal property but is managed as an experiment in public-lands management by a private trust.

Scientific investigation is a big part of its mission, he said.

Currently, the site hosts 46 scientific projects, including fire history studies being done by the UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and fire ecology studies conducted by its Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.