Forest Service works to reduce wildfire fuels near Peak 7 while planning for future projects
BRECKENRIDGE — The U.S. Forest Service is working on a fire mitigation project near the Peak 7 neighborhood that involves clear-cutting about 47 acres to protect the neighborhood and surrounding areas from potential wildfires.
Representatives from the Colorado State Forest Service, Summit County Open Space and Trails, and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District presented on the health of the Upper Blue River Basin forest area at the Breckenridge Town Council work session Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Ashley Garrison, a forester with the state Forest Service, said trees under 5 inches in diameter are being left, and she reported that 10 acres already have been cleared. The remainder of the project is on hold until the snow melts, Garrison said. There will not be pile burning as a result of the clearing because the contractor is taking the wood out to be repurposed.
Other upcoming fuels reduction projects include one near Wellington neighborhood, which will include 91 acres, Garrison said. The project will be put out to bid in early spring.
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And the Forest Service is seeking public comment on another logging project near Breckenridge that includes 522 acres. The project already has been approved following the 2011 Breckenridge Forest Health and Fuels project analysis with the caveat that the forest — which includes areas around Peak 7, White Cloud, Golden Horseshoe and Blue River — is at 60% mortality.
Dillon District Ranger Bill Jackson said the mortality in these areas ranges from 20% to 55%, but the Forest Service wants to go back out and make a new decision about whether the project can move forward sooner than when the 60% threshold is reached.
“Public sentiment has changed so much since 2011,” Jackson said. “They want us in there tomorrow creating these fuel breaks.”
Peak 7 fuels reduction project comment deadline: March 13
- Mail written comments to Bill Jackson, District Ranger, c/o Eric White, P.O. Box 620, Silverthorne, Colorado 80498-0620
- Hand-deliver written comments to the Dillon Ranger District office, 680 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
- Fax written comments to 970-468-7735
- Submit written comments electronically at Cara.Ecosystem-management.org/public/commentinput?project=57601
Jackson said that in 2019, his office received more than 300 letters of support from Peak 7 residents asking for fuels reduction work in the area.
“In a nutshell, how are we doing?” council member Jeffrey Bergeron asked during the meeting, bringing up the possibility of a fire like that in Paradise, California. “Are we limited by finances or are we doing everything we can to keep our community safe?”
“I think a Paradise situation could definitely happen, but we’re working to link everything up and make as robust of a fuel system as we can,” Garrison said. “I think there’s a lot of work to do, but a lot of the low-hanging fruit has been picked.”
Red, White & Blue fire Capt. Matt Benedict added insight to the possibility of wildfires.
“We know as a fire department we’re going to ebb and flow,” Benedict said, noting that while the wildflowers are beautiful, they provide a lot of fuel. “After a wet year, there’s a lot of grass and wildflowers. … That biomass is still sitting there.”
He also noted that the county is about 14 years past the mountain pine beetle epidemic and that the fire department was told that 10 years would be the trigger point for fires. That prediction proved accurate with the Peak 2 and Buffalo Mountain fires occurring in the past few years.
“The fuels are going to get more challenging to treat the longer we wait,” Benedict said to council members. “So from a fire district, we challenge you guys to take a good honest look at everyone’s open space.”
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