Every year slash piles are created on the forest from hazardous fuel reduction projects in an effort to minimize the threat of catastrophic wildfires. The work is not finished until these piles are removed. This winter crews on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District have burned over 20,000 of these slash piles.

Dedicated fuels implementation specialists, along with fire staff, conduct these pile burns under detailed conditions laid out in a burn plan. These burns are also done under a smoke permit from the State of Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. Conditions are evaluated each day of a potential pile burn and include weather, smoke dispersal, staffing and snow cover. Crews also conduct a test burn to ensure conditions are adequate. Eight times this winter burns were cancelled either before or just after a test fire, an example of how diligent our firefighters are and how closely they monitor each burn.

Snow this season and the location of piles benefited the district’s ability to tackle the many piles that are on the landscape. Last year’s lower snow total led the district to accomplish nearly 6,000 piles burned, highlighting the great accomplishments this winter.

Piles need to dry for a year or two after being created before they are dry enough to be burned. This winter, piles have been burned in these project areas:

Pingree Hill (near Rustic)
Red Feather 1 (near the Manhattan and Red Feather Lakes roads)
Red Feather 2 (northwest of Red Feather Lakes)
Crystal Lakes and Deadman Road (northwest of Red Feather Lakes)
Thompson River 1 and 2 (west of Pinewood Reservoir and 3 miles southeast of Estes Park)
Estes Valley (along State Highway 36, between Pinewood Springs and Estes Park)
Pratt Creek/McGrevey (northwest portion of Larimer County in the Sheep Creek area)
Seven Mile (southwest of Red Feather Lakes)
West Beaver (west end of Forest Service Road 169)

Piles burned to date include 19,888 hand piles, typically 6’ by 6’ by 6’ and 276 machine piles usually a minimum of 12’ by 12’ by 12’.

Burning will continue to take place in winter months for the foreseeable future. Next season there will be another approximately 20,000 piles available for crews to ignite, many in the same areas mentioned above. Information is posted annually online at www.fs.usda.gov/arp/clrdrxfire. The district also regularly updates a recorded phone line with pile burning information at 970-498-1030.

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