Lost Solar Fire said to be ‘more a marathon than a sprint’
Burning for the last month after a lightning strike, the Lost Solar Fire in the western Flat Tops Wilderness has grown to about 4,500 acres. But U.S. Forest Service personnel say they could hardly have prescribed a better fire.
“This isn’t a direct attack where we try to put it out as fast as we can,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor for the White River National Forest.
Instead fire crews are approaching the blaze with intense monitoring.
“This operation is more of a marathon than a sprint,” said Kate Jerman, White River National Forest spokeswoman.
Forest Service personnel expect the Lost Solar Fire to be a long-term event that won’t stop burning until the first snows of the year. The fact the fire is on the edge of a designated wilderness also makes the Forest Service want to be as hands-off as possible.
Firefighter safety also is a big consideration, said Curtis Keetch, Rio Blanco District ranger.
Rather than putting numerous firefighters into action and digging fire lines around the blaze on steep and hazardous terrain, the crews are carefully tracking the Lost Solar Fire and predicting where natural barriers — cliffs, previously burned areas, aspen stands and high elevations — are going to halt the fire, said Keetch.
And just like previously burned areas act as a good barrier for this fire, the area that the Lost Solar Fire burns will be another barrier for future fires, said Jim Genung, incident commander on the Lost Solar Fire.
Allowing this type of fire to burn is beneficial on multiple fronts — thinning stands that have grown too thick, opening habitat for wildlife, reducing fuels for future fires, promoting younger vegetation and opening the area for hunters and their game, to name a few.
“In a way, this was a pre-planned event,” said Genung.
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