Healthy snow season allows for prescribed burns in SW Colorado

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PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — Around this time last year, officials with the U.S. Forest Service were battling massive wildfires in southwest Colorado.

Historic drought conditions made the 2018 fire season one of the worst on record.

“It was a rough year,” explained Fred Ellis, Assistant Fire Management Officer for Fuels on the Pagosa Ranger District.

But thanks to a healthy snowpack this season, the U.S. Forest Service is actually able to work on prescribed burns — something the Pagosa District couldn’t do last year.

“We’ve got enough moisture this year that we’re able to get in here at this time of the year and actually burn them successfully without worrying about escapes,” Ellis explained.

This week, Ellis and his team conducted a pile burn along the Lower Piedra Campground in Archuleta County between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield along Highway 160.

“Obviously, you see a lot of green grass out here,” Ellis pointed out. “Last year, the grass was about three inches tall and brown at this time of the year. It never really matured”.

Despite the grass being green, Ellis urged caution. He said fires can still spark up despite having healthy vegetation.

“It may not be the way it was last year, but there’s always that danger involved,” he said.

The U.S. Forest Service is planning additional prescribed burns in the coming weeks.

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