Colorado - Hunter Creek Prescribed Burn

State: Colorado
Region: Aspen Valley

Fire is part of a natural and healthy ecosystem. In the absence of natural fire, the forest and shrubs become dominated by older trees which provide less and lower quality food for wildlife. Fresh leaves, berries and acorns, become rare. Regularly occurring fires (whether natural or prescribed) stimulate this new and nutritional growth and also reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels. This decreases the chance of catastrophic wildfires, which pose a significant risk to neighboring communities.

EcoFlight has been working with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), Wilderness Workshop, Pitkin County, City of Aspen, and the U.S. Forest Service on the Hunter Creek Smuggler Mountain Cooperative Plan for a prescribed burn, as part of the forest restoration project in the Hunter Creek Valley, adjacent to the City of Aspen and Pitkin County open space. Fire has been an integral part of natural processes in the Hunter Creek ecosystem with a historic range of fire every 30-60 years, although it has been suppressed in recent years. Fire managers from The Nature Conservancy, BLM and USFS consulted with the core project group bringing their scientific expertise on fire in the wildland-urban interface to the table as part of the process. EcoFlight worked with partners to produce the following video to educate the public on prescribed burns, and what to expect from this one.

On May 14, 2016 the right weather and fuel conditions converged and the Forest Service successfully treated 900 acres with prescribed fire. EcoFlight was able to capture photos during the fire (see below). Most of the treated area saw low to mederate fire effects, which is what they were looking for. The fire burned in a mosaic, a random pattern of burned and unburned vegetation. This is desired because the fire stimulates new growth and reduces fuels while leaving remaining shelter and cover.