Controlled burns start near Gypsum |

Controlled burns start near Gypsum

Cliff Thompson

With spring barely sprung smoke has already clouded the Eagle River Valley.

But instead of a wildfire, the smoke was from a controlled burn south of Gypsum at Old Man Creek, conducted by crews attempting to improve the big game habitat.

You can expect to see more smoke this week, weather permitting, said Phil Bowden, a federal fire officer. Fires are only conducted when it’s not windy or too dry, so crews can control the rate of spread of the fire.

Monday crews burned about 50 acres of oak brush – the best way to stimulate the new growth that big game likes – and plan on conducting several smaller size burns in preparation for a 500 acre burn when conditions allow. A total of 6,500 acres will be burned in the area, Bowden said.

That fire isn’t the only one which will pump smoke into the area. The Old Man controlled burn is one of three planned for the lower valley. Bowden said there will be two other burns this spring: 500 acres on Derby Mesa and approximately 2,700 acres near Burns. Nearly 8,000 acres of prescribed burns are planned from Basalt to Rifle and Meeker when conditions allow, according to the Interagency Fire Management Office, a federal agency.

Some of those burns are designed to remove dead and downed trees that could fuel an uncontrolled wildfire.

People suffering from respiratory impairment who could have problems with the smoke created by the burns should call Phil Bowden or Eric Rebitzke at 328-6388 for advance notice of burns.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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