By Rebecca Robbins
The Columbine Ranger District is planning to burn approximately 3,400 acres this autumn in the Beaver Meadows and First Notch areas of the San Juan National Forest to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health.
The planned burn area is located approximately 14 miles east of Bayfield. Operations may begin as soon as today, Sept. 30, depending on weather conditions and availability of fire personnel and other resources.
Ignitions will take place over several consecutive days and operations may take several weeks to complete. Burning operations will be conducted by district personnel and other fire resources from the Forest Service and partner agencies using both ground and aerial ignition.
This burn unit is part of the larger Vallecito-Piedra prescribed burn project aimed at reducing hazardous ground fuels, reducing the risk of unplanned catastrophic wildfire, restoring ponderosa pine ecosystems and improving wildlife habitat. More information on the San Juan National Forest prescribed fire program can be found on Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6288/.
Daytime smoke is expected to travel to the north/northeast and to be lofted high into the sky. Nighttime smoke is expected to travel downslope into the Beaver Creek drainage, the Piedra River and south to the Pine River just north of Ignacio. Smoke will be heavier in the mornings following burning operations, lifting and clearing out by mid-day. Smoke will be visible from Bayfield, Pagosa Springs, and the U.S. 160 corridor between those two towns. Learn how smoke from prescribed fire may affect your health by visiting the Colorado Department of Public Health website: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
The forests in southwest Colorado are part of a fire-adapted ecosystem, which historically experienced frequent, low-intensity fires on a large scale. Prescribed fire replicates that fire regime under controlled conditions. Prescribed fires will only be ignited when all weather, fuels and smoke requirements are met.
For more information, please contact the Columbine Ranger District at (970) 884-2512.
All offices on the San Juan National Forest are currently conducting business and providing services virtually. For information on the San Juan National Forest, call (970) 247-4874.