Forest Service continues to monitor Collins Creek prescribed fire site

Smoke may be visible from 1,200 burn near Aspen over next few days

The U.S. Forest Service continues to keep an eye on the site of the Collins Creek prescribed fire this week after a successful 1,200-acre burn several miles north of Aspen near Woody Creek on Friday, according to a USFS news release.

“Everything went really well,” Forest Service Public Affairs Officer David Boyd said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “No control issues, looked like it was a good burn. It was putting up a lot of smoke for a while, and that’s because there was so much fuel in there.”

People may see smoke rising from the interior of the burn area over the next few days, according to the release.

“This is expected and typical following a burn as some of the heavier fuels or small pockets of unburned areas complete burning,” the release states. “These pose little risk, and we will continue to monitor them.”

There was visible smoke coming from the burn site Friday, but it did not have a significant impact on air quality in most of the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

The burn targeted mountain shrubs “to improve wildlife habitat and reduce fuels for wildfires,” according to another Forest Service release issued last week.

The new growth that emerges after a fire like the one that took place Friday is “really nutritious for wildlife,” Boyd said. A “mosaic” approach clears areas for wildlife to access the new growth while leaving some spots covered for animal habitat.

The Forest Service took things “slow and steady” at Collins Creek, Boyd said. A helicopter ignited sections of the area from the top of the site to the bottom, allowing each area to burn up to the top of the section above it.

The Red Flag warning that was issued Friday for Eagle County and Pitkin County only applied below 8,500 feet; most of the burn site was above that elevation and was surrounded by snow, making for “optimal conditions” for the burn, Boyd said. The Forest Service measured the moisture content and vegetation of the fuel and used a hyperlocal spot weather forecast to ensure safety during the burn.

“We’re really watching the conditions quite closely,” Boyd said. The Forest Service plans a number of prescribed fires each year but only completes a few when the conditions are right; the Collins Creek prescribed fire was the fourth this year, following a 500-acre burn in West Divide near Silt, a 200-acre burn at Muddy Pass north of Edwards and a 1,900-acre burn near Cattle Creek east of El Jebel.