The U.S. Forest Service plans to burn hand-piled slash on Tunnel Hill as weather allows beginning the week of Nov. 4, 2013, and continuing until too much snow accumulates to allow efficient and safe operations.
What you need to know:
Pile burning will be conducted by a team of U.S. Forest Service firefighters. Firefighter and public safety will be the first priority.
Burning will occur when there is minimum of 3 inches of snow on the ground in that area and when predicted atmospheric conditions are ideal for smoke dispersal.
Due to the prominence of Tunnel Hill, flames and heavy smoke could be visible on burn days. Forest Service personnel will closely monitor air quality and the burn area perimeter.
Residents of the Fraser Valley may be impacted by smoke, especially in the evening and early morning. Smoke sensitive residents will need to plan accordingly on burn days.
An area safety closure will be in effect on Tunnel Hill from the National Forest boundary outside Winter Park to the ski area boundary, including roads and trails east of Vasquez Road to the railroad tracks. User-created routes that enter the forest from private lands in this area may not be signed but violators could be prosecuted for entering the closure area. This closure will remain in place until burning is complete.
Tunnel Hill is located on U.S. Highway 40 between the Town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort.
The 400-acre Tunnel Hill Fuels Reduction Project is creating a critical fuels break, protecting infrastructure and reducing the potential impact of wildfire on communities and watersheds. Funded in large part by Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets program, the project reduced thick stands of lodgepole pine growing on the hillsides between Winter Park’s residential and business communities and the ski area. Due to steep terrain, the wood could not be removed, creating an estimated 20,000 piles. The fuels reduction project is not complete until the piles are burned.
To reduce the number of days that local communities are impacted by smoke from pile burning on Tunnel Hill, the U.S. Forest Service has obtained a non-traditional smoke permit from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. Through this pilot program U.S. Forest Service plans to burn at least 1,000 piles per day on Tunnel Hill.
Under a traditional smoke permit, the state would limit pile burning on excellent smoke dispersal days to 250 piles. At that rate it would take many years for the Forest Service to complete pile burning on Tunnel Hill. By working closely with state air quality regulators, the Forest Service hopes to burn more than half of the piles on Tunnel Hill in just 10-12 burn days this year.
The U.S. Forest Service has installed three particulate monitors in strategic locations around the Fraser Valley and will review results daily. Burning operations will be adaptive to maintain air quality standards set by the EPA.