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Last updated 2:12AM ET
December 13, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Prescribed Burns Smoke Up Four Corners
(2008-04-28)
1. A heli-torch dangles from a helicopter preparing to refuel its torch.

2. Ground crews prepare to fuel up a second helicopter with its payload of "fireballs."

3. Hermosa "Burn Boss" Craig Goodell oversees the operation.

4. Hermosa smoke as seen behind Animas City Mountain from Durango Sunday. (Victor Locke, KSUT)

(ksut) - HOST LEAD: The first of what could be several large prescribed burns in Southwest Colorado is now underway.
The plumes of smoke from the Hermosa burn coupled with strong winds have raised some concerns.
But fire managers say don't worry!
KSUT's Victor Locke reports:

GOODELL: TYPICALLY OUR BURNS WILL RANGE ANYWHERE FROM 200 TO 2-THOUSAND ACRES, SO THIS IS A LITTLE BIT BIGGER PROJECT.
As a helicopter drops in to refuel its helitorch at a base just north of Falls Creek, Hermosa prescribed burn boss Craig Goodell says 3 to 6-thousand acres of the 12-thousand acre Hermosa roadless area will be burned this week.
The helitorch drips ignited gelled gasoline, and a second helicopter drops chemical bearing plastic balls that burst into flames as they hit the ground, to ignite the forest floor North of Durango.
About 50-firefighters and smoke jumpers on the ground keep track of the blaze as it consumes forest floor materials that could otherwise fuel a wildfire into a major conflagration.
GOODELL: IT REDUCES THE RISK OF HAVING A DESTRUCTIVE WILDFIRE THAT MIGHT COME OUT OF THE BACK COUNTRY INTO THE WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE.
This particular burn has been planned for several years, but this year all conditions came together to make it a go.
Lingering snowpack at higher elevations and on north facing slopes acts as a fire stop.
And Goodell says those who've expressed concerns about such a burn with recent strong winds we've seen, needn't worry.
GOODELL: THERE'S A LOT OF VARIETY IN HOW WINDY IT IS FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER, AND WE GET SPOT WEATHER FORECASTS FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE THAT ARE REALLY IDENTIFIED TO THE SPECIFIC AREA WHERE WE'RE WORKING. SO WE MAY HAVE LIGHTER WINDS ON THE PROJECT AREA THAN THEY'RE SEEING IN BAYFIELD OR DURANGO.
Goodell says smoke from this burn, which will last through Friday, could be visible across the Four Corners as it climbs as high as 20-thousand feet, especially during the early in the week.
GOODELL: WHICH IS REALLY GOOD IN TERMS OF GETTING THE SMOKE UP AND OUT SO THAT IT DOESN'T GET DOWN INTO THE VALLEY'S WHERE PEOPLE LIVE OVERNIGHT, SO THAT HELPS US IF WE CAN GET IT UP AND OUT DURING THE DAY.
As the refueled heli-torch leaves to make another drop of fire on the forest floor, Goodell tells me this burn will cost about 125-thousand dollars.
Two groups, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Colorado Division of Wildlife Habitat Partnership Program gave 40-thousand dollars apiece to help the Forest Service offset the expense of the burn.
The 125-thousand is probably far less than it would cost to fight a wildfire should one break out in the same area, if it were left untreated.
At least two other major burns are scheduled this week.
22-hundred acres in the Piedra River area near Pagosa could be burned between May 1st and 20th.
And the Dolores Public Lands office plans to burn 2-thousand acres in the Doe Canyon, East Pines, Housecreek, Haycamp Mesa and Glade areas starting next Monday.
Trails and roads in the prescribed burn areas, by the way, are closed during the burns.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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