Hunter Creek prescribed fire successfully treats 900 acres

Staff report

The right weather and the right fuel conditions converged Saturday and the White River National Forest successfully treated 900 acres with a Hunter Creek prescribed fire, the U.S. Forest Service reported Sunday.

The forest has been working with partners in the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan to educate the community on the benefits of prescribed fire, and particularly the Hunter Creek prescribed fire, for more than a year. Yesterday, many of those partners were on site providing assistance and documenting the burn, including representatives from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the Aspen Fire Department, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, the city of Aspen and Wilderness Workshop.

Jim Genung, fuels specialist for the White River National Forest and burn boss on the project, provided this update: “This morning, we are showing about 60 percent of 900 acres affected with a nice mosaic from yesterday’s prescribed fire treatment. Most of the treated area saw low to moderate fire effects, which is really what we were looking for.”

“Mosaic” is a term for a desirable, random pattern of unburned vegetation remaining in the prescribed burn area; the site benefits as fire stimulates new growth yet shelter and cover remain.

Winds moved smoke away from Aspen to the northeast as planned, and the city’s air-quality monitor showed that the fire had virtually no impact on air quality. Rain is expected to continue throughout the week, and no fire growth is expected in the area; however, the public should expect to see occasional light smoke over the next few days.

Crews will be closely monitoring the site. Genung said he expects the site to be accessible Monday and advised caution as visitors return to the area: “Fire-weakened aspen trees may fall without warning, especially if winds pick up, so folks should pay attention and look around while traveling through aspen stands.”

No more prescribed fires are planned in the area this spring.

For information on the Hunter Creek prescribed fire, contact the Sopris Ranger District at 970-963-2266.