With the onset of fall weather and snow in the mountains, fire crews are beginning to burn slash piles at multiple locations across the Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests in Colorado and Wyoming.
It is estimated that thousands of piles remain on the two National Forests, even after multiple years of this type of work. Forest users and the public should be aware of and expect to see smoke, as many piles will be burned near communities and popular recreation areas. Questions should be directed to your local Ranger District Office.
“Our annual program of work now includes burning slash piles,” said Vern Bentley, Fire Management Officer for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. “We anticipate removing fuels by burning piles for years to come and our crews are well trained in this type of work.”
Over the last few years, the two Forests have completed many forest management projects, including removing dead trees from travel corridors and recreation areas, as well as reducing hazardous fuels generated from the bark beetle epidemic. Fuels remaining in these areas have been gathered into piles, either mechanically or by hand. The main objective of the pile burns is to reduce the remaining dead fuels, which is in the best interest of long-term public safety.
Recent periods of wet, cool weather have prompted crews to begin preparations for burning piles. While conditions in some locations are currently favorable, fire managers will continue to monitor weather forecasts prior to igniting piles. Burns are only initiated if conditions are within established parameters for safe, effective fires. Predicted weather needs to allow for safe burning and the elimination of any threat of fire spreading to surrounding vegetation. Pile burning will continue all fall and winter, as long as weather permits.
Each prescribed burn planned by the Forests has gone through an environmental analysis and has a detailed burn plan developed in advance, along with appropriate smoke permits obtained from state agencies. Signs are often placed on adjacent roads notifying the public of the prescribed fires, and closures are rarely necessary.