Story Map Time: Fuel Treatments in Colorado

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Story by Brittany Sprout, Public Affairs Specialist

Check out the full Story Map here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/30ee2b1c2c0049e9a91536ef3c27fa46

As the main fire season in Colorado comes to an end, our BLM fire program is preparing to shift gears and focus on treatments and fuel management through the winter and spring. Fuel treatments allow us to remove hazardous fuels by reducing or rearranging surface fuels, increasing spacing between tree crowns, or spacing out other vegetation to reduce the possibility of a fire “spreading out”. extends” from the ground to the canopy across a landscape. Fuels treatments can also focus on removing invasive species to allow fire-resistant native species to regrow in the area.

Fuels, fuels, fuels…

Lakemoor West treatments have had a positive impact on bringing the High Park fire under control in 2022. Almost 20 years ago, BLM carried out hand thinning and prescribed fire treatments to reduce combustibles dangerous in Lakemoor West, 5.5 miles west of Cripple Creek, Colorado. On May 12, 2022, the High Park Fire was reported in the same area and brought under control 12 days later.

Although these photos look similar, the left is before our fire crews cleared the area and the right after the clearing. You will notice that younger trees and smaller vegetation have been removed to prevent any future fires from climbing over the taller trees.

Prior fuel treatments have allowed safe and successful deployment of suppression assets. The treatments have also created a healthy forest that is resistant to wildfires, and the trees that survived the fire have increased the height from the closet branch to the ground, which will make the area even more resistant to wildfires. in the future. Who would have thought that our actions twenty years ago would be so crucial and beneficial to ensuring security today? (I think our fuel specialists did!)

An area with several small piles of downed trees and branches.

In 2003 Lakemoor West was hand thinned by BLM staff. You can see bits of branches, small bushes, and small trees that have been removed from the area. Small vegetation and young trees are perfect targets for fires to climb, allowing them to reach larger trees that would not normally burn.

A photo of smoke in the air and small burning vegetation.

In 2008 BLM personnel returned to Lakemoor West to complete their second phase of treatment – ​​directed fire. Although creating a fire to prevent a fire seems counter-intuitive, it has many advantages. Excess vegetation that would allow fires to spread and burn easily is removed, and this sometimes leaves room for native species to regrow if invasive species have invaded the area.

The recent bipartisan Infrastructure Act allocated additional funds for wildfire risk reduction efforts, which will go a long way in helping our program meet our fuel treatment goals. The BLM values ​​the creation of a resilient landscape on public lands to ensure that future generations can enjoy the lands in the same way as past generations. Our fire program looks forward to more fuel treatment successes like Lakemoor West in the future!

The left is a photo of a landscape with grasses and trees.  The right is the same area with scorch marks from a recent fire.

The photo on the left is from 2009 after the fuel treatments were applied and the photo on the right is after the High Park fire in 2022. Thanks to the spacing between the trees due to the removal of smaller vegetation, it was more difficult for the fire to spread rapidly across the landscape. The fire also could not progress to the taller trees due to the removal of low branches.

This story map would not have been possible without our GIS Specialist, Marlinda Jacks, and our Natural Resources Specialist, Glenda Torres. Learn more about treatments, fire and benefits in the story map – including interactive GIS maps: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/30ee2b1c2c0049e9a91536ef3c27fa46

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