EL PASO COUNTY — A large plume of smoke got a lot of attention as it rose above the Pike National Forest on the border of El Paso and Teller Counties during the last week of September.
Smoke is expected to be visible Monday through Wednesday due to a prescribed burn by the U.S. Forest Service and the El Paso County Wildland Fire Group.
“This is not a wildfire. This is a prescribed fire,” said District Ranger, Carl Bauer.
This is a legal fire set on purpose after extensive planning for safety.
Smoke may be visible along the I 25 corridor from Pueblo to Ken Caryl & along Hwy 24 from Woodland Park to Divide. For firefighter and public safety, a road closures for FR 314 from the FR312/314 intersection north to FR315 from 0900-1900 will be enforced today. #EnsingGulchRX pic.twitter.com/L9JcwYKeYm— USFS_Pike&San Isabel (@PSICC_NF) September 25, 2023
The El Paso County Sheriffs Office (EPSCO) is asking the public to not call 911 if smoke is visible unless there are other indicators of fire visible like "active unsupervised flames."
“Know that we're doing prescribed fires and that it's going to help us in the future before a wildfire comes,” said Bauer.
The intentional burn comes after years without any prescribed burns on the Pike National Forest.
The return falls within the new U.S. Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy.
“Congress is allocating additional funding above our normal funding to do fuels reduction work on the forest. And this work today is part of that,” said Bauer.
The intent of fire set on purpose is a healthier forest that is less prone to devastating wildfire.
Bauer said, “Try to reduce the fuels that are available to any future wildfire. It will also allow firefighters more time and other options on how to react to future wildfire.”
Over three days close to 2,000 acres will be treated with fire.
As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, the United States Forest Service said ignitions have ceased for the day. Crews remained on scene overnight, patrolling. The forest service said that a total of 238 acres were burned Monday.
An additional goal is to show the public that risk with this kind of treatment is minimized with the intent of a healthier forest and lower wildfire risk.
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