Prescribed fire in Aspen’s Hunter Creek Valley deemed a success
Helicopter, ground crews set fires to consume vegetation within 825-acre area
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service and partner groups were pleased with the effectiveness of a prescribed fire that covered about 825 acres in the Hunter Creek Valley on Friday.
After ground crews set some test fires in the morning, a helicopter was used to drop incendiary devices throughout the target area starting at noon, according to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner. The majority of the burn was completed by 3 p.m.
“There was good consumption (of various types of vegetation) where we put fire,” Warner said.
The burn area was about 2 miles northeast of Aspen. Smoke billowed up from the site in the early afternoon and flames several feet high flared up at times. Westerly winds carried the smoke away from homes on Red Mountain and Aspen, a critical part of the planning effort.
“The winds did exactly what they were forecasted to do,” Warner said.
The burn focused on the hillside on the north side of the Hunter Creek Valley. Snow hanging on in Van Horn Park provided a natural barrier. The area was targeted for both improvement of wildlife habitat and removal of fuels for potential wildfires, Jim Genung, fire management officer with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, said earlier this week.
The plan wasn’t to burn every acre within the target area but to ignite patches of vegetation that were most ripe for flames. Speaking by phone from the scene Friday, Warner said, “You can see great mosaic” burn pattern.
Firefighters were stationed on the ground to make sure the fire didn’t get out of control.
“We’ll have people on-site monitoring as long as we need to, into the weekend,” Warner said.
David Boyd, public information officer for the White River National Forest, said it was possible smoke would settle into the Aspen area once the winds died down Friday evening. The smoke should move out Saturday, he said.
There is no closure order for the area but the Forest Service is advising recreation pursuers to play in other areas this weekend.
The prescribed fire was a partnership among the Forest Service, Aspen Fire Department, city of Aspen, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.