Vallecito-Piedra prescribed fire set to begin today


By Lorena Williams | San Juan National Forest

The Columbine Ranger District is planning to burn approximately 1,500 acres in the Beaver Meadows and First Notch areas of the San Juan National Forest to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health. 

The Vallecito-Piedra prescribed fire project area is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Bayfield. Operations may begin as soon as late April and continue into early summer, depending on weather conditions and availability of fire personnel and other resources.

Ignitions will take place over several consecutive days and operations may take multiple weeks to complete. Burning operations will be conducted by district personnel and other fire resources from the Forest Service and partner agencies using both ground and aerial ignition. Prescribed fires will only be ignited when all weather, fuels and smoke requirements are met.

This burn project is aimed at reducing hazardous ground fuels, reducing the risk of unplanned catastrophic wildfire, restoring ponderosa pine ecosystems and improving wildlife habitat. The forests in Southwest Colorado are part of a fire-adapted ecosystem, which historically experienced frequent, low-intensity fires on a large scale. Prescribed fire replicates that fire regime and increases the area on our landscape that has been burned at low and moderate conditions.

Daytime smoke is expected to travel to the north/northeast and to be lofted high into the sky. Nighttime smoke is expected to travel downslope into the Beaver Creek drainage, the Piedra River and south to the Pine River just north of Ignacio. Smoke will be heavier in the mornings following burning operations, then lifting and clearing out by mid-day. Smoke will be visible from Bayfield, Pagosa Springs and the U.S. 160 corridor between those two towns. Learn how smoke from prescribed fire may affect your health by visiting the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website.

For more information on the Vallecito-Piedra Prescribed Fire Project, please contact the Columbine Ranger District at (970) 884-2512. More information on the prescribed fire program can be found on Inciweb. For information on the San Juan National Forest, call (970) 247-4874 or visit the forest website.