Forest Service plans prescribed burns in Mad Creek area outside Steamboat |

Forest Service plans prescribed burns in Mad Creek area outside Steamboat

Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt National Forest fire crews plan to conduct multiple prescribed burns in North Routt this spring, and the operations will likely lead to people seeing some smoke in the areas.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, crews will wait for suitable weather and fuel moisture conditions before starting any of the prescribed burns, but the projects could begin as soon as early April.

Burn unit locations are on the Routt National Forest, Hahns Peak and Bears Ears Ranger District, and in the Mad Creek and Rocky Peak area. The efforts are intended to reduce the threat of wildfire, as well as improve wildlife habitat by regenerating shrubs and aspen.

“As the wildfires of the past two years have shown us, there is an abundance of hazardous fuel build-up on the forest, so we are focusing our fuel reduction efforts on the National Forest System lands adjacent to developed areas — known as the wildland urban interface,” said Michael Woodbridge, Hahns Peak and Bears Ears District Ranger, in a news release.

He added that the snow, wet drainages and lower temperatures will allow crews to closely manage these burns.

In the Mad Creek and Rocky Peak area, the prescribed fire treatment is planned for 1,154 acres, with individual units sized 400 acres or less.

The burns will also supplement mastication work done on adjacent acres in 2017-19 and is part of the larger, multi-year Steamboat Front Hazardous Fuel Reduction Project.

Woodbridge also said the Forest Service is coordinating with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Routt County on this project.

According to the Forest Service, the crews will use drip torches to carry out burning operations and likely need multiple days to complete the burns.

The Forest Service warned smoke may be highly visible from some areas during burning operations but added that it should subside in the evening, though some smoke could settle in surrounding low-lying areas at night.

Fire crews will monitor burned areas until the fire is safely out and that the minimal and managed smoke from prescribed fires will help prevent the potential for more hazardous wildfire smoke in the future, the Forest Service said in the release.

According to the Forest Service, the overall purpose of the Steamboat Front project is to reduce hazardous fuels through management of forest vegetation and to improve deer and elk winter range habitat through habitat and recreational use management.

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