Fire Managers, Others, Talk Prescribed Burns

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Fire managers and others from around the state gathered at UCCS to touch base this week.

Prescribed or controlled burning is intentionally causing a fire over a planned area for environmental benefits.

Kirk Will is a Unit Chief at the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and presented at the event. He says fire is a natural, necessary part of an ecosystem's cycle, and prescribed burning can prevent more serious wildfires.

"I would like to see it utilized more effectively in places that really, really need it," Will says. "The areas that are overgrown, the areas that need that fire return back to the ecosystem to make it healthy again, to clean up the dead and down and clean up the accumulation of fuel."

Coleen Campbell, environmental protection specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, writes permits for prescribed burns, which can be a source of air pollution.

"What you're trying to do is balance the catastrophic air pollution that is going to possibly be created by a wildfire with a prescribed fire where you know the parameters like the humidities, the fuel moistures, and also the wind directions," Campbell says.

She says she's seen an increase in pile burning permits over the last 12 years. That's a type of prescribed fire that involves moving flammable, natural debris from near houses and safely burning it in piles. She says the increase is possibly due to pine beetle kill. 

The governor put a temporary moratorium on prescribed fires when embers from one sparked the 2012 Lower North Fork fire, which killed three people and destroyed more than 20 homes. That moratorium was lifted in 2015.

Will says they're currently in the planning phase for a burn in Mueller State Park near Divide.