Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dealing with mud and brush after the Waldo Canyon fire

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon Fire
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Burned areas that resemble this one in northwest Colorado Springs are being treated to keep them stable.

In the wake of the most destructive fire in Colorado history, the Waldo Canyon Fire, forestry officials are working to apply treatments to the burn scar in the Pike San Isabel National Forest, while U.S. Sen. Mark Udall has set up a meeting for people to learn what they can do to protect their homes against wildfire.

First, the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is working with contractors to repair the scar. In a couple of weeks, the BAER team will begin aerial drops of straw mulch.

“We are currently soliciting bids for an aerial watershed treatment contract from qualified contractors,” Cathy Carlock, BAER team leader, says in a press release. “Aircraft will be broadcasting straw and wood shred mulch from the air, so the specialized skills needed are very specific.”

Meanwhile, warning signs have been installed along Forest Service trails, road intersections and recreation areas. And key roads have been closed to protect the traveling public during potential flood events, or from dangers posed by hazard trees and rocks falling from the burned slopes, the release says.

BAER engineering technician Cait Cuddihy says the Forest Service has completed a survey of fire affected trails, removed dozens of hazard trees along the trails and within the recreation sites, stabilized approximately half of the trails, and removed hazardous debris within the fire area.

Also from the release:

Currently, BAER trails specialist Jason Jiminez and Pikes Ranger District trails specialist Alex Doud have been working long hours with local Forest Service fire engine and hand crews to complete the trail stabilization work. The BAER team has set-up work agreements to complete the remaining trail work with the Mile High Youth Corp, and the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team.

The Pike National Forest reminds the public that all trails and the entire fire perimeter continues to be closed to the public and that while the Waldo Canyon Fire is considered fully contained, the fire has not been declared controlled by the Forest’s fire managers. Additionally, the fire area will continue to be closed during the aerial mulching treatments but the Forest and BAER team will plan for viewing opportunities of this operation to be available for the public.

The BAER implementation team continues to coordinate their emergency stabilization treatments with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Colorado Department of Transportation, El Paso County, and the City of Colorado Springs along with other state and local agencies responsible for flood control and assistance to landowners downstream of burned area federal lands (http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/news/pas/2012_Fires/2012_Fires.html).

NRCS is also working cooperatively with the El Paso County Department of Public Works (DPW) and cities and communities adjacent to and downstream from the Waldo Canyon Fire burned area to evaluate potential threats to specific businesses, homes, and neighborhoods.

Federal assistance to private landowners is the primary responsibility of the NRCS through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program (http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/news/pas/2012_Fires/2012_Fires_EWP_Assistance.html).

Sen. Udall's staff will be on hand at 7 p.m. Wednesday at a meeting where Jack Cohen, Rocky Mountain Research Institute, will speak on home fire mitigation.

The meeting, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Catamount Institute and Colorado Springs Together, a volunteer group, will be held at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.

Street parking is available at no cost and at the Sahwatch Parking Garage directly behind Centennial Hall, 255 S. Sahwatch Ave.

For more information, contact Sen. Udall's Pikes Peak office at 471-3993.

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