Blue Ridge prescribed burn project could resume in late October near Cottonwood Pass
Arapaho National Forest fire managers and their partners will be looking for safe opportunities to continue the Blue Ridge prescribed fire project in the area near Cottonwood Pass as conditions allow over the coming weeks. Implementing prescribed fire is a critical part of reducing the risk of wildfire to communities and improving forest health conditions in Grand County. Blue Ridge is the geographic feature that runs North-South from Granby to Fraser, between the East Troublesome, Church Park and Williams Fork fires. Improving conditions in this area is a key component of the Hot Sulphur, Fraser and Grand County Community Wildfire Protection Plans.
Prescribed fire is only implemented under very specific environmental conditions (e.g. wind speed, relative humidity, smoke dispersion). Prescribed fires are conducted by trained fire managers with a strong understanding of fire behavior and years of on-the-ground experience. These prescribed burns will only be implemented when pre-identified and contingency firefighting resources are available to support safe operations. Fire managers develop containment lines in advance, building fire line by hand, laying hose, and identifying existing fire breaks and natural barriers such as ridges, rivers and roads. This helps safely keep the prescribed fire within its planned perimeter. Fire managers staff the fire until it is deemed secure and patrol the prescribed fire until it is declared out. In past seasons, fire managers with the help of many local cooperating agencies have successfully burned approximately 500 acres in the Blue Ridge area. This fall, fire managers are preparing to burn up to 400 acres over multiple days, starting in the Big Meadows south of Cottonwood Pass. Ten cooperating agencies will be involved. Burning could begin as soon as Oct. 20 if conditions allow.
Smoke from these activities could be visible from many areas in the county, including Parshall, Granby and parts of the Fraser Valley. When smoke is in the air, fire managers work closely with experts to minimize the impacts to the extent possible. Air quality is carefully monitored before and during a prescribed fire and all prescribed burns comply with state air quality regulations to minimize impacts. To learn more about the potential health impacts of smoke visit www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
Even with the most thorough planning and preparation, the use of prescribed fire carries an innate level of risk that cannot be eliminated entirely. However, prescribed fire is one of the most efficient ways of reducing wildfire risk. Regularly conducting prescribed fires, which mimic nature, reduces the buildup of flammable vegetation and overgrowth. Prescribed fire treatments are credited with preventing the Cameron Peak Fire from impacting a large community just west of Fort Collins during extreme fire conditions. The USDA Forest Service recently completed a 90-day nationwide operational pause and program review of protocols, decision support tools and practices related to the implementation of prescribed fire. This pause allowed time to identify and immediately implement program improvements to ensure firefighters have the resources, tools and support needed to safely carry out this important work. The lessons learned, driven by the best available science, have been incorporated into the Blue Ridge Burn Plan. Find Blue Ridge Prescribed Fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8439/.
Follow Arapaho National Forest on Facebook and Twitter @usfsarp for updates and look for email updates the day before burning is likely to begin. To receive updates on this and other Arapaho National Forest projects, please send your email information to ARPpublicaffairs@usda.gov with the subject line Sulphur Ranger District Updates.
Photo credit: A picture of a prescribed burn in the Blue Ridge unit between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs in October 2018 (Sky-High News).