A Grass Fire on the Al Hada Escarpment, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

SGS-DF-2005-6 M. John Roobol and Adeeb Ziyadi
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ABSTRACT


In Shaban 1426 / September 2005 a large smoke cloud was observed on the Al Hada escarpment immediately below Taif city. Early press reports suggested that a volcano was erupting on the escarpment. A brief road reconnaissance by Toyota Landcuiser on 17th September (the fourth day of the fire) revelated a smoke cloud along the face of the escarpment extending south of the Makkah-Taif expressway where it climbs the escarpment. The cloud extended from about eight kilometers south of the asphalt highway for a further fi ve kilometers and rose above the escarpment. A drive along Wadi Numan at the base of the escarpment enabled the investigators to talk to local people who reported a fi re burning on Jabal Suhar where the smoke cloud was situated. Residents also reported similar smoked clouds in three previous years. A return to the area by helicopter on 28th September (the 16th day of the fire) revealed no sign of burning on Jabal Suhar but the fi re was located with a single burned area of about four square kilometers in the top of Jabal Niman (see Map) 20km to the south. The helicopter landed on an unburned area within the burned area at GPS 21o06.425´ N., longitude 40o 10.232´ E. and an altitude of 1957 m above sea level. It was concluded that the smoke cloud observed on the fi rst visit had drifted 20 kilometers north along the face of the escarpment.  The burned area measures 2.7 km E-W by 2.6 km N-S (with an area of 4 square kilometers) and lies mainly above 1800m and includes to top of Jabal Niman at 2061meters. The fi re was still burning on the eastern side. There is insuffi cient grass and bushes for a major fi re and the burned areas contain many patches of green grass that have escaped while most tall bushes (around 2m high) are still alive and green in the burned areas. Dead bushes are mostly severed at ground level with their unburned branches lying on the ground. The fi re spreads exceedingly slowly and has not done any major harm to the environment as grass roots and plant stems remain green and alive after the fi re. The only dead life observed were fairly common blackened remains of large millipedes. In unburned areas live green bushes surrounded by healthy live grass show fi re blackened stems suggesting that fi res in past years have occurred without harming the environment. The inaccessibility of the area however prevented fi remen from reaching the area and the fi re is likely to smoulder on until rain puts it out.

 

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Roobol, M.J., Ziyadi, A., 2005, A grass fire on the Al Hada escarpment, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Saudi Geological Survey Data-File Report SGS-DF-2005-6, 22 p., 22 figs., 1 plate.