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Fire epidemic stems from Carson training 

click to enlarge County firefighters helped contain at least one fire at Carson. - EL PASO COUNTY WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING TEAM
  • El Paso County Wildland Firefighting Team
  • County firefighters helped contain at least one fire at Carson.

At least seven fires have broken out so far this year on Fort Carson's training grounds, six of which were ignited by Army training vehicles, according to a Carson spokesperson.

The fires have burned 14,878 acres, which totals more than 12 percent of Carson's 120,000-acre training area.

Carson's public affairs office says via email the fires, while not planned as prescribed burns, "did help the installation in reducing heavy vegetation in training areas by minimizing the impacts of munitions and natural fire ignitions on the land."

Fort Carson spokesperson Daneta Johnson also says that "fires, planned or unplanned, assist in controlling noxious weeds, brush control and wildlife management."

Asked to elaborate on how the fires are good for wildlife, she said they provide better habitat through new growth.

In addition, the post responds after fires with measures to reclaim burned areas.

"We do evaluate the burned area to determine if the installation will need to conduct reclamation through reseeding or erosion control best management practices," Johnson says. "In many cases, the fire intensity was not high enough to require this and, within a short time period grasses grow back."

Bill Sulzman, a frequent critic of military programs and spending, called the number of burned acres "over the top."

"And we have five months to go," he adds via email. "It will soon look like the moon out there."

The fires, their cause and acres burned:

• Jan. 23-31, started from gunnery training, 9,636 acres.

• Feb. 20-29, started from Marine Corps gunnery training, 1,250 acres.

• March 3-6, started from gunnery training, 993 acres.

• April 14-15, started from gunnery training, 1,568 acres.

• May 24-26, started from gunnery training, 67 acres.

• June 15-25, started from lightning that smoldered in tall grass and high winds, 644 acres.

• July 10-23, started from vehicle exhaust from Abrams tank, 720 acres.

The last fire triggered a comment from Johnson noting that Abrams tanks' exhaust can reach 1,700 degrees.

Owners of property abutting Fort Carson might take solace in the fact that the post's Public Works Directorate maintains firebreaks along the installation's perimeter to help prevent sparks from spreading beyond the post, Johnson noted.

— Pam Zubeck

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