BEULAH – Slash pile burns on National Forest land at the edge of Buelah are making some locals uneasy. “I could see a huge fire up there on 12 mile around the Don Carlos trail area and it wasn’t just white clouds. It was red,” said long time Beulah resident, Raeanna Grieve. She and numerous others in the town are concerned over how close the mitigation measure is to their homes.
Beulah residents are hyper-aware of fire danger after multiple wildfires in the past few years. Just two years ago an accidental fire on the grassland side of town accidentally sparked during a major wind storm. “They weren’t able to control it and it burned eight homes and all kinds of buildings of sorts,” said Grieve. They say the slash pile burns continue on windy days and that is contrary to what they have been taught about fire safety.
“Slash piles are in fact a key and important tool in forest management,” said United States Forest Service, Fire Prevention Technician, Gregg Goodland. He says the concerns of Beulah residents are an education opportunity. With the government shutdown now past, slash pile burning projects will resume in the remaining winter months. Near Beulah, and multiple other locations, thousands of piles will be burned.
A key element to burn locations is snow. “We need to have plenty of snow on the ground and currently what we’re seeing is an average of eight to 12 inches and in many places up to three feet,” said Goodland. The snow minimizes risk of flames spreading beyond the pile. During hot dry conditions, wind is the enemy of firefighters. Experience shows the snow contains fire so well, crews can burn while the wind is blowing. The wind thins out smoke in the air. It is also often necessary. “It encourages a hotter fire which often times gives us better consumption of those piles thus making the project much more effective.
Beulah locals have heard the explanations, but say they can’t shake their feelings of unease. “That really worries us all,” said Grieve.