Summit County plans pile-burning operation on Mesa Cortina open space


DILLON — The Summit County Open Space & Trails Department has contracted with the Forest Stewards Guild to plan and conduct pile-burning operations on the Mesa Cortina open space.

The pile burning is scheduled to take place between the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods near Silverthorne from Dec. 7-20, depending on the weather.

The Forest Stewards Guild manages the Gravitas Peak Prescribed Fire Module, a team dedicated to implementing fire management projects. The group is developing a 21-part burn plan, providing officials with smoke and fire modeling to simulate the burn, a checklist of pre-burn conditions and contingencies for unforeseen challenges.

The open space and trails department will be hosting a community meeting via Zoom at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, to provide community members with an overview of the project and to answer questions.

“We chose to work with the Forest Stewards Guild because they bring a high level of experience and professionalism to all aspects of the planning and operations of this prescribed burn,” Jordan Mead, resource specialist with Summit County Open Space & Trails, said in a release. “Their mission to reduce risk to communities and increase the resilience of fire-adapted ecosystems aligns well with Summit County fuels reduction and forest management goals.”

Contractors conducted hand piling of slash materials during the summer and fall of last year to reduce negative effects to vegetation and riparian habitat. The treatment included the removal of dead and dying trees within three stands, along with ladder fuels and diseased or poorly formed living trees. A total of 457 slash piles were created as a result of the thinning operations, according to the project’s webpage.

The Forest Stewards Guild is working to reduce any significant smoke impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, but the smoke could negatively affect sensitive individuals. The burn operation requires at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and a forecast for weather conditions that will maintain the snowpack. Firefighters will work to burn in ideal conditions to mitigate smoke.

The county will be providing messaging on the burns through community alerts and roadside message boards. Residents who are smoke sensitive also can sign up for additional notifications by emailing or by calling 970-668-4065.

“It has been our aim from the onset of this project to minimize impacts to local residents, wildlife habitat and vegetation while still meeting the broader objective of reducing fuels connectivity and the risk of catastrophic wildfire to the densely populated neighborhoods of Wildernest and Mesa Cortina,” Mead said in the release.


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