It is an irony that one of the best ways to prevent forest fires is to start one.
The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network plans to do exactly that starting in mid-October in two areas near Woodland Park. The prescribed burns, which are closely monitored, are meant to replicate the natural burn process that forests undergo.
Controlled fires help build healthy forests by thinning out vegetation, which makes surviving trees healthier and more fire resistant because they have to compete less for precious resources like water. It also clears out dead vegetation that can act as kindling in dry months, igniting out-of-control blazes.
Nevertheless, many residents are fearful when they see smoke, especially after the deadly and destructive Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires. Read on for more information:
Pikes Peak Prescribed Burns Scheduled to Begin Mid-October
October , 2015 – The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network will conduct two prescribed fire projects this fall in the Woodland Park area. The Sourdough and North Catamount burns are scheduled to take place in mid to late October, exact dates will depend on weather conditions.
Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network is a collaborative group established to bring local and regional partners together to collectively identify and implement strategies for the safe, effective and appropriate use of fire for forest management.
“Prescribed fire is a highly effective land management tool that can greatly minimize the risk of unnaturally large and damaging wildfires, while improving wildlife habitat and strengthening the health of our landscapes and watersheds,” said Jason Lawhon, Fire Manager for the Colorado Nature Conservancy. “The Fire Learning Network brings together community members and fire and land management professionals to learn from each burn experience.”
The Sourdough prescribed burn will take place over a 14.8 acre area located north of Woodland Park. It will occur on private property off of Sourdough road just south of the Manitou Experimental Forest. Organized primarily through the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, North East Teller Fire and The Nature Conservancy, the goals of the project are to reduce hazardous fire fuels and increase understory grass and plant recovery after a previous forest thinning project.
The burn will take place any time after October 12. The exact date will depend on weather and fuel conditions. There will be one day of burning and crews will remain on scene for multiple days after the burn to monitor the fire until it is completely extinguished.
“Without prescribed fire, we as a society cannot hope to achieve the goals of forest resiliency, community protection, and watershed health,” said Jonathan Bruno, Chief Operation Officer of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte. “These are all critical to protecting people, property, and ecosystems.”
The North Catamount prescribed burn will take place on a 105 acre area located on the
Colorado Springs Utilities’ North Slope Watershed near the North Catamount Reservoir.
Colorado Springs Utilities is the lead Network member on this project with goals of protecting water supply and infrastructure in its watersheds as well as improving forest heath and reducing fuels.
The burn is scheduled to take place any time after October 18 depending on conditions. There will be 1 to 2 days of burning with crews on the scene for multiple days after monitoring until it is completely extinguished.
“Over the past 20 years, multiple fuel reduction projects have been completed on the North Slope using hand crews and other mechanical techniques,” said Eric Howell, Colorado Springs Utilities Forest Program Manager. “Over time, however, wildfire conditions have increased. We can help mitigate risks effectively and safely through the implementation of prescribed fire.”
Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network is actively working with Colorado Air Pollution and Control Division to manage potential smoke impacts from the burns. When a controlled burn is implemented, it is conducted under very specific parameters laid out after years of planning. Daily weather conditions play a key role in whether a burn can be accomplished or not. The project fire managers will be evaluating conditions and forecasted weather to make the best decision on when to initiate these burns.
The Network is working to make sure that community members are kept abreast of information regarding these burns and hope to address any concerns and questions. Once the exact dates of the burns are known, the media and public will be notified. Up to date information will also be disseminated through the Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network twitter account, @Pikespeak_FLN with related hashtags, #SourdoughRX and #CatamountRX.