A federal fire crew started a prescribed burn Monday on a lower flank of Basalt Mountain, about 3.5 miles from El Jebel.
A crew from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management burned about 120 acres, according to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Aurora Cutler. The goal was to burn vegetation over about 430 acres.
“Winds were definitely a factor,” Cutler said.
The site is along Basalt Mountain Road, east of Spring Park Reservoir. The forest road was closed during the operation.
A “holdover” team was staying overnight at the site to make sure fires didn’t flare up and the public didn’t enter the area, according to Cutler. No information was available immediately on when the rest of the mountain shrub and aspen at the site will be targeted with a prescribed burn. A crew of 25 federal firefighters with three engines worked on the project Monday along with firefighters from Basalt.
The prescribed burn has multiple purposes, including getting rid of old and decadent mountain shrub that hasn’t been allowed to burn for decades. Burning the vegetation will improve food sources for wildlife “and create habitat conditions that will encourage wintering deer and elk to stay in the area rather than move onto lower elevation private land where they may become a nuisance,” the Forest Service said in a statement.
The Basalt Mountain project is part of a 10-year effort to improve conditions on 45,000 acres of the White River National Forest.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has helped with planning the project. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has pledged some $16,000 to assist the cost of federal fire crews.