Prescribed burn planned near Cottonwood Pass
Firefighters with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit are expecting a window of opportunity within the next few days to conduct the Cattle Creek prescribed burn.
Smoke is expected to be visible from Carbondale, in Garfield County; Basalt in Pitkin County; and the towns of El Jebel, Gypsum and Eagle in Eagle County. Residents are asked not to call 911.
The prescribed burn, which depends on favorable weather, will target 50-75 percent of the vegetation within a 1,200-acre area located 9 miles north of El Jebel near Cottonwood Pass on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in Eagle County.
The Cattle Creek prescribed burn is part of the 10-year Aspen-Sopris wildlife habitat improvement project, which is a landscape-level project that uses prescribed fire and mechanical treatments in key forest, shrubland and grassland vegetation types across the district to improve habitat and benefit wildlife.
The Cattle Creek prescribed fire will occur in aspen and shrub vegetation that is used by elk and mule deer as winter range and as a place to give birth to young in early summer. The area is also a summer home to raptors, songbirds and other native wildlife.
The prescribed fire will benefit both big game and smaller wildlife and improve habitat conditions by utilizing low-intensity flame to consume fuels, clearing patches of decadent and dense vegetation as well as dead grasses and leaf litter. This will promote existing vegetation to sprout and regenerate leafy forage during the next growing season. A secondary benefit of prescribed fire is hazardous fuels reduction in areas adjacent to communities.
“Prescribed fire is a cost-effective tool to improve wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous fuels,” said Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District ranger.
This is the first year prescribed fire operations have been conducted in the Cattle Creek area.
Prescribed fires are implemented in accordance with a written burn plan that prescribes specific weather and smoke dispersion conditions to exist before crews are able to proceed. Crews are responsible for igniting vegetation, monitoring control and spread of fire and smoke, ensuring fire is held by control features and monitoring fire behavior. Approximately 20 firefighters and two engines will be used to assist in the operation. The prescribed burn operations may be implemented using either hand or aerial ignitions.
Most of the smoke will dissipate during the day, although some nighttime smoke may remain in valley bottoms as temperatures drop.
Those who are sensitive to smoke are encouraged to call the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District Office for additional information 970-963-2266.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.