City to start fire break work in June on Emerald Mountain |

City to start fire break work in June on Emerald Mountain

As part of the Blackmer Trail fire break project that will start in June, more than 30 acres of work will take place adjacent to the neighborhoods of Fairview and Brooklyn and near the Howelsen Hill complex.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue/Courtesy image

With the help of a $255,000 state grant through the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation program, city fire and parks personnel will start work in June on Emerald Mountain to create a stronger and safer fire break line along Blackmer Trail and nearby areas.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cerasoli said the focus of the work will be on “hardening” Blackmer Trail as a critical road access point for fire officials to safety and quickly position firefighting equipment in the case of wildfires that could move toward Steamboat Springs from the southwest. Strategically removing wildfire fuels from either side of the trail to create a stronger fire break could slow down or, in the best case, stop a fire, Cerasoli said.

The grant allowed Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue to build capacity to purchase a truck similar to those used by tree service companies and a trailer-type wood chipper. Much of the hand work will be completed by the department’s two full-time seasonal wildland fire personnel, positions now in their second year with the department, when the staff is not actively fighting fires.

The 86-acre fire mitigation project will include work to protect the critical infrastructure of the radio communications tower located some 800 feet above the old quarry site, which is a popular place for hikers and bikers to take scenic photos overlooking Steamboat. Work also will be conducted in buffer areas along the Lane of Pain and Prayer Flag trails. More than 30 acres of work will take place adjacent to the neighborhoods of Fairview and Brooklyn and near the Howelsen Hill complex.

The work taking place from June to November will mostly be done by hand crews and is predicted to have little impact on hikers and bikers this summer except for temporary closure areas on a trail when a tree needs to be cut down, said Carolina Manriquez, with the Colorado State Forest Service.

City Parks and Recreation personnel will assist with the fire break project, and a 30- to 40-person volunteer group from Team Rubicon will travel to Steamboat to help for a long weekend in late July. Team Rubicon is a nonprofit group that utilizes military veterans to help during times of disasters and humanitarian crisis.

Manriquez said the Blackmer Trail wildfire hardening project was identified as a priority in both the past and current Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

The Blackmer Trail project is part of a decade of various work addressing the Emerald Mountain landscape, Manriquez said, including another project in the BLM Emerald Mountain Special Recreation Management Area on far west side of Emerald Mountain planned to start later this year. The BLM project located on the Cow Creek side of Emerald Mountain could impact the Rotary, Ridge and Beall trails.

The fire chief said any trail closures this summer will be posted at the trailhead and on social media outlets as the project work moves slowly uphill on Blackmer Trail.

The Colorado Legislature established the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation grant program in 2017 to provide support through competitive funds that encourage community-level actions across the state to reduce wildfire risk. This year’s funds were awarded on March 31.

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