Surprises surface in aftermath of Silver Creek Fire | SteamboatToday.com

Surprises surface in aftermath of Silver Creek Fire

The Silver Creek Fire burned through parts of Buffalo Park on Rabbit Ears Pass. (Courtesy photo by Ellen Buras)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt National Forest is now ready to rejuvenate and recover after the Silver Creek Fire burned 20,120 acres southeast of Steamboat Springs.

Post-fire studies have resulted in some surprises, and only 3 percent, or 504 acres, was classified as having a high burn severity.

"That number is actually fairly low for a fire that has burned that long and that big," Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos said.

Typically, foresters would expect to see a number of upwards of 20 percent of high burn severity.

In areas where the fire burned severely, it will be difficult for water to soak into the scorched earth.

"It will eventually regrow," Voos said. "It's just going to take awhile."

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Thirty-five percent was moderately burned, and 25 percent is categorized as low.

The fire burned in a mosaic pattern, and 37 percent of the fire area is unburned.

"In some areas, it would go and leave some areas and fields untouched," said Christian Hornbaker, Grand County emergency manager.

Forest officials are hopeful the regrowth will occur more quickly than it has for the 2002 Green Creek Fire on Rabbit Ears Pass.

"It's been really slow to recover," Voos said.

Hornbaker is concerned about potential flooding or impacts to watersheds next spring at the Silver Creek Fire.

"We have to be prepared for that," Hornbaker said. "We're waiting on more detailed maps to help mediate those impacts."

Post-fire work often entails stabilizing soil, seeding, mulching and building water bars and other methods for diverting the flow of water.

Hornbaker also is concerned about trees that will fall because they have been weakened by the fire.

As a whole, Voos said the fire was beneficial for the overall health of the forest, because it cleared out sections of dead and dying timber.

The fire aftermath will also benefit some species of wildlife.

"There are always winners and losers no matter what," Voos said.

Deer and elk should benefit, but there are also animals that benefit from decaying timber that burned.

The lightning-caused Silver Creek Fire has cost an estimated $28.1 million to fight, and it is now 100 percent contained. Forest Service Road 100 has been reopened.

"They won't call it controlled or out until we get a big season-ending snow on it," Voos said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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