Forest Service aims to burn hundreds of wood piles in Roaring Fork Valley forests this winter |

Forest Service aims to burn hundreds of wood piles in Roaring Fork Valley forests this winter

Staff report

The Upper Colorado Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit will take advantage of favorable weather conditions in coming months to burn woodpiles leftover from fuel reduction and hazardous tree removal projects in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

There are numerous sites in the vast district where piles will be burned this fall and winter. They include the Baylor Park area near Sunlight Mountain Resort and a site 3 miles north of Thomasville.

“Crews may burn 10 to hundreds of piles per day,” the White River National Forest announced in a news release. “These prescribed fires will be ignited when fuel, weather and smoke dispersion conditions allow fire managers to burn in an effective and safe manner. Additionally, when piles are burned with snow on the ground there is an extremely low chance of the fire spreading to adjacent vegetation.”

Wood and debris is often collected in what is called slash piles. They have to be burned because they cannot be disposed of in other ways due to steep slopes or lack of access. The wood burning could result in smoky conditions.

“Local residents and travelers through the area should be aware of the likelihood of smoke rising from these areas,” the Forest Service said. “Most of the smoke will dissipate during the day. However, some nighttime smoke may remain in the valley bottoms and drainages and is expected to be short in duration.”

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in a statement that the pile burning is often the last step in important fuels-reduction projects.

“We recognize it can be inconvenient to see and smell smoke in the air, however, we need to continue to be focused and diligent about reducing hazardous fuels and protecting our communities during these limited burn-window opportunities.”