Wildland burn planned south of Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Wildland burn planned south of Gypsum

Cliff Thompson

For most of last spring and summer, the state’s worst drought in 125 to 500 years parched area wildlands, forcing a statewide open fire restriction. But heavy September rains and snows allowed the fire ban to be lifted.

“To mimic nature and reintroduce fire into the ecosystem, these are the years we should be out there trying to do it,” said Interagency Fire Officer Eric Rebitzke.

When wind, moisture and humidity permit, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management personnel will be torching 1,500 acres south of Gypsum, in the Old Man Gulch area, to enhance big-game habitat to reduce fuel for an uncontrolled wildfire. If it burns as anticipated, 60 percent of the oak brush and sagebrush will be burned.

Burning promotes oak sprouting, and increases the amount of natural grass, which deer and elk like to eat.

Prescribed burns have become a political football both in Vail and elsewhere around the West. A prescribed burn two summers ago outside of Los Alamos, N.M., blew out of control, burning more than 100,000 acres and many homes and businesses.

The proposed Booth Creek prescribed burn on 300 acres adjacent to the Vail neighborhood has been amended to a modified burn of slash piles, but only in winter.

Other smaller fires will be lit to burn some piles of logging slash and brush piles at: Booth Creek in East Vail; Blodgett Campground in the Homestake Creek area; the Coffee Pot Road in the Flat Tops above Dotsero; near Sweetwater; and at King Mountain, near the Routt/Eagle County boundary.

The prescribed burn south of Gypsum will be the largest fire. It will be ignited by a helicopter equipped with a machine that expels pyrotechnic ping pong balls. The small fires started by the ping pong balls should merge into a larger fire.

To be successful and meet requirements, the fire needs to burn up to 60 percent of the oak brush and 40 percent of the sagebrush.

It’s the fourth and final segment of the 6,000-acre Old Man Gulch prescribed burn, Rebitzke said.

People who may have respiratory complications and need notification before a burn is ignited, should call Phil Bowden or Rebitzke at 328-6388.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com

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