By Bill Trimarco
Special to The SUN
Firefighters, smoke and low flames may be visible in the next few weeks across the San Juan Mountains as prescribed burns continue with the assistance of the San Juan Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX), set to take place across the San Juan National Forest (SJNF) between Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.
The TREX will bring together firefighters from across the country and local partners including the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy’s Prescribed Fire Training Exchange Program, to assist the SJNF with its prescribed burn objectives.
These local partners are uniting around the mission of TREX: to provide opportunities for firefighters, scientists and managers to work and train together, and build their experience in prescribed burn practices, fire effects and other conservation efforts affecting forests in southwest Colorado.
For example, two Mountain Studies Institute staff will attend to gain experience with fire effects monitoring in order to improve skills and knowledge about how to evaluate the effects of fire during and after a burn.
In 2018 alone, TREX programs around the country completed more than 13,000 acres of ecological prescribed burning and provided training for over 500 people across eight states. TREX events equip participants with essential skills for managing both planned and unplanned fires.
The San Juan TREX and associated prescribed burns will be led by a team of professionals representing local and regional Colorado- and New Mexico-based federal, nonprofit and private agencies and organizations in a truly collaborative effort to improve land health for people, animals and forests.
Fire practitioners from around Colorado will attend in addition to participants from California, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah. Additionally, the Colorado Prescribed Fire Council will hold a meeting in Durango in conjunction with TREX on Sept. 19, which will draw additional fire professionals from across the state to discuss barriers to prescribed burning and new tools and techniques for smoke management, among other subjects.
Prescribed burns will occur primarily in ponderosa pine forests across the SJNF. Fire Management Officers have determined priority areas in need of fire treatment on national forest lands, and those priorities include areas between Pagosa Springs, Bayfield and Dolores. The TREX crew will travel throughout the national forest’s three districts to assist with one or more burn units per day. Weather and fuel conditions are closely monitored by fire managers and burns will only be conducted when conditions are right to ensure safety.
Ponderosa pine forests are a fire-adapted ecosystem,which historically experienced frequent, low-intensity fires on a large scale. Prescribed burns replicate these fires, reduce fuels near communities and improve wildlife habitat. Burns also compliment steps homeowners and community members can take to make their communities more fire adapted. More information is available by contacting Wildfire Adapted Partnership and visiting www.wildfireadapted.org.
To learn more about the San Juan TREX, visit www.sanjuanheadwaters.org/trex and http://nature.ly/trainingexchanges.
Additional organizations supporting the San Juan TREX include The Nature Conservancy’s Fire Learning Network, Mountain Studies Institute, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at CSU, Chama Peak Land Alliance and individuals from across the country.