Ponderosa pine and lower mixed conifer forests are adapted to and benefit from periodic, low intensity fires.
Prescribed burns conducted by fire managers reduce fuels on the ground and prune lower branches of trees.
Burning provides for nutrient cycling, increases grass cover and induces re-sprouting of shrubs which improves browse and feed for wildlife and livestock. Fire managers on the Pagosa Ranger District are planning to conduct several prescribed burns on Forest Service lands surrounding Pagosa Springs this spring.
Forest Service lands
• Chimney Rock Area: Chimney Rock and Youth Camp Prescribed Burns. Located in the Chimney Rock Archeological Area and on adjacent Southern Ute lands. Smoke will be visible from U.S. 160 and Colo. 151, from Arboles, Aspen Springs and Elk Park subdivisions.
• First Fork Road (FSR 622) and Lower Piedra drainage. The Horsefly Burn located along the First Fork Road includes about 200 acres. Smoke may be visible from Aspen Springs, Arboles and Chimney Rock. The USFS plans to burn about 2,000 acres in the Piedra Aerial Prescribed Burn, located in the Piedra Area. Smoke may be visible from all over Archuleta County.
• Devil Creek (off of Monument Park Road): Upper Devil Creek and East Monument Park Road (FSR 630). The Devil Creek Prescribed Burn includes about 600 acres. Smoke will be visible from Pagosa Lakes, U.S. 160 (westbound), Sportsman’s Store and the Piedra Road.
• Burns Canyon: The Burns Canyon prescribed burn is located about 10 miles southwest of Pagosa Springs. The plan is to burn 200 to 500 acres. Smoke will be visible all over Pagosa Lakes, Timber Ridge, downtown Pagosa Springs and from U.S. 84.
A burn plan has been prepared for each area that describes specific weather, fuel moisture conditions and number and types of personnel needed to safely conduct the burn. Burn plans are prepared by qualified burn bosses and reviewed by higher level, experienced fire managers. Burn plans also specify wind and atmospheric conditions that will minimize smoke impacts to surrounding communities.
All of these burns will be lit by crews on the ground. Burns could take place the end of March to mid-May timeframe. Fire managers plan the burning to occur when it will have the least smoke impact on communities. However, because of predominant westerly winds, some of the smoke will drift into neighborhoods and communities.
Burns are conducted under specified conditions, generally when it is cooler in the spring or fall. Besides helping to restore ecosystem health, the burns reduce the risk of severe wildfire.
For additional information about the proposed burns or other fuels-reduction efforts, visit the Pagosa Ranger District, at 180 Pagosa St., Pagosa Springs, or call 264-2268.