Dillon Ranger District plans over 10 wildfire mitigation projects in and around Summit County

None of these projects are expected to close any trails

U.S. Forest Service crews burn piles of timber in White River National Forest on Thursday, Jan. 28. The Dillon Ranger District has plans to execute over 10 wildfire mitigation projects in and around Summit County, some of which include planting trees and thinning out dead vegetation.
Elaine Collins/Courtesy image

Though spring hasn’t sprung just yet in Summit County, the Dillon Ranger District is preparing for warmer weather and the upcoming wildfire season. Just as it’s compiled a list of recreation projects to maintain some of the county’s beloved trails, it’s also planning to execute over 10 wildfire mitigation projects, most of which will begin in June and last through October.

Though many of these large-scale projects will be carried out by Dillon Ranger District staff and its partnership with the Colorado Forest Service, Kathleen Gray, fuels planner for the district, said that community members can get involved with some of the smaller projects the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District assists with.

Individuals can also join a meeting at noon on Wednesday, April 20 at the Summit County and Community Senior Center in Frisco where the Forest Health Task Force will discuss volunteer opportunities for some forest health projects too. More information about the meeting can be found on the group’s website at

Regardless of what projects community members decide to help with, Gray said that all of the work is vital to the safety of the community.

“The goal of all of our fuels reduction work here on the Dillon Ranger District is to create strategic fuel breaks where firefighters can safely and effectively engage in suppression activities, and we’ve had a few examples of the success of our efforts over the last few years,” Gray said.

One of those was in 2018 when the Buffalo Fire broke out near the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods. Gray said the U.S. Forest Service had created some of these fire breaks years before and these breaks helped firefighters prevent its spread.

Of the major projects to be launched this upcoming season, some of the most notable ones include planting trees where the Peak 2 and Buffalo Fires were; thinning and maintaining past treatments in the North Barton, Frey Gulch, Ophir and Heaton Bay areas; and continued fuel reduction work in the Peak 7 neighborhood.

Though none of this work is expected to close any trails, Gray said some trail users might experience delays up to 30 minutes.

Planting trees

“We have to follow national directives that after five years, if a wildfire or a past treatment hasn’t naturally regenerated due to a fire — like maybe there was more heat in that area that destroyed the seedbed or a treatment happened on a rockier slope that the trees didn’t naturally regenerate — we have to go in and plant some trees,” Gray said.

Gray said this measure helps remedy forest health by improving soil, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration.

About 120 acres will receive this kind of treatment, and the areas the district plans to focus on include the Buffalo Fire scar, the Peak 2 Fire scar and previous work on Ophir Mountain, which saw a fire in 2005.

Tree thinning and maintenance

Dusty Calfee, engine captain for the Dillon Ranger District, noted that an important part of forest health and wildlife mitigation requires thinning out some of the dead vegetation that helps a fire spread quickly.

“In the wildland fire environment, the fuel is typically any natural material growing in high density,” Calfee said. “All fuel, all organic matter, is combustible so it’s all fuel in a sense but we want to focus on the highest densities and concentrations. In Summit County, that would be lodgepole pine forests, particularly where heavy dead and down component exists, and then heavy concentrations of brush (and) tall grasses.”

Up to 500 acres will receive this kind of treatment. This treatment is scheduled for areas including North Barton Gulch near Breckenridge, Frey Gulch near Keystone and Ophir Mountain and Heaton Bay near Frisco.

Fuels reduction work in Peak 7 neighborhood

Gray said that this work is going to build upon measures that’s already been completed in the Peak 7 neighborhood in past years. Like many projects, this one is supported through funding from Summit County’s Strong Future Fund as well as from Denver Water and The Nature Conservancy.

Other wildfire mitigation projects scheduled for this season

A crew executes a fuels reduction project above the Wellington neighborhood in Breckenridge. The wildfire mitigation project is one of the many that the Dillon Ranger District executes each year. | Ashley Garrison/Colorado State Forest Service

• Tree thinning in Dillon Reservoir campgrounds

• Peabody Placer fuels reduction

• White Cloud fuels reduction

• Frisco Water Treatment Plant and the 10 Mile Trail fuels reduction

• Blue River fuels reduction

• Harrigan fuels and forest health

• Indiana Gulch fuels and forest health project

• Invasive plant eradication across Summit County

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