Prescribed Burning Planned for Saul's Creek , Yellow Jacket and Vallecito/Piedra Areas Beginning September 8th, 2018

It has been a couple of long, hot months filled with smoke for southwestern Colorado.   Now as the autumn months approach and the wildfire conditions have moderated, the San Juan National Forest has scheduled some prescribed burns beginning early September, approximately 20 miles east of Durango, 4-12 miles east of Bayfield just off US 160 in the Saul’s Creek, Yellow Jacket and Vallecito-Piedra areas.  All three areas are low elevation forests consisting of ponderosa pine, Gambel oak and grass understory. 

Prescribed Burn Area Map

The purpose of this project is to reduce forest fuels, reduce the potential for severe wildfires, improve wildlife habitat, and maintain forest ecosystems.  These prescribed fires will be done under weather and fuel conditions that will result in low intensity, manageable and beneficial burns.  Fortunately, we can manage ignitions to burn under conditions that minimize smoke impacts to populated areas.  Burning operations in the area may continue throughout October, weather permitting.

Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health.  Working together with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the San Juan Forest will be conducting these burns under strict air quality guidelines to ensure that populated areas are not severely impacted. Portable air quality monitors will be installed near the eastern edge of Bayfield as well as a couple locations farther east near US 160.  Burning will be conducted under wind conditions that move smoke away from Durango and Bayfield, toward the interior portions of the San Juan NF north and northwest of Pagosa Springs.  Although evening and nighttime smoke will likely sink into the valleys immediately below the burn areas, the communities of Durango and Pagosa Springs are not expected to see anything other than light transitory impacts.  A meteorologist with a specialty in smoke from wildland fires will be in the area and will be in contact with San Juan fire management personnel and Colorado air quality officials. Should any sensitive area become heavily impacted with smoke overnight, burning will be dramatically curtailed the following day.

Tips for managing smoke

  • Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.

  • Be extra vigilant at night. Nighttime the air is usually more still than during the day and smoke can be worse. Smoke in nighttime air often flows down valleys and settles in low lying areas. Close windows at night.

  • Filter your air by running your air conditioner or evaporative cooler, but only if the system is filtered. You may also run the fan on your home heating system, with the heat turned off, if the system is filtered. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.

  • Use HEPA room air filtration units if you have them.

  • Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke.

  • Do not rely on commercially-available dust masks, which do virtually nothing to filter out the particles and gasses in smoke.

  • Consider temporarily locating to another area if it is safe to do so. Seek out locations where air is filtered such as malls, movie theaters or recreation centers.

  • Be prepared to evacuate by planning ahead. Plan your evacuation route and your destination. Put together a kit that contains medications and other important items that you can’t be without.

    Who is most likely to be affected by smoke?

  • Elderly people.

  • Young children (especially under 7).

  • Pregnant women.

  • People with pre-existing respiratory or circulatory conditions like asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease.

  • People with respiratory infections such as colds or flus.

  • People with smoke allergies, although this is rare.

    What are symptoms related to smoke exposure?

  • Eye, nose and/or throat irritation--runny eyes and/or nose.

  • Coughing, sore throat.

  • Trouble breathing or tightness of the chest, which may be symptoms of a health emergency.

  • The onset of symptoms related to pre-existing respiratory ailments like asthma or emphysema.

  • Weakened immune system after prolonged exposure to smoke.

    For more information call the Columbine District at (970) 884-2512


    For more information about smoke visit this website



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