by Pam Zubeck
Come October, some of the vegetation on the north slope of Pikes Peak will be toast.
Colorado Springs Utilities, through its cooperative agreement with the Colorado State
Forest Service, will conduct a controlled burn of 115 acres of land between the North Catamount and South Catamount reservoirs. The idea is to maintain improvements made by previous fuel reduction projects and minimize the risk of wildfire for the long-term protection of water supply, water quality and infrastructure in the watershed, according to a memo from Utilities CEO Jerry Forte to the Utilities Board.
Over the past 20 years, multiple projects to reduce fuels have been completed in this area utilizing hand crews and other mechanical treatment techniques. However, with natural re-vegetation over time and
remnant fuels from prior treatments, Forte says in the memo, wildfire conditions are beginning to increase.
He says that by simulating fire as a natural component of this particular forest
type, that being Ponderosa Pine, a low-intensity controlled burn will improve overall forest
health and conditions on the site. This will reduce the likelihood of future insect and
disease infestations and catastrophic wildfire, and help avoid the significant impacts
to water quality and erosion that can result.
The North Slope controlled burn is planned for October, pending the end of the
fire season and weather conditions. The Colorado State Forest Service will provide
oversight of the burn plan and project, and will involve the Colorado Springs Utilities
Wildland Fire Team, Colorado Springs Fire Department and other regional wildland fire agencies.