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Firefighters to burn slash piles near Durango city limits

Residents asked to avoid calling 911 to report smoke
The Durango Fire Protection District plans to burn slash piles Wednesday and Thursday near the western and northern city limits. Residents are asked to avoid calling 911 to report smoke in those areas. (Durango Herald file)

Firefighters plan to burn slash piles Wednesday and Thursday near the western and northern city limits, possibly creating plumes of smoke visible from town.

Emergency managers are asking residents to avoid calling 911 to report smoke in those areas. In the past, the 911 dispatch center has become overloaded with calls when firefighters burn slash piles, according to a news release distributed Tuesday by La Plata County government.

The slash piles are about 4 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall. They were created during various mitigation efforts over the past seven years to reduce hazardous fuels accumulating in the wildland-urban interface – the zone between densely developed property and more natural environments.

The city has about 1,000 piles that need to be burned, but firefighters plan to set about 280 piles ablaze this week, said DFPD wildfire battalion chief Scott Nielsen.

Burning must occur during ideal environmental conditions, including low humidity, low temperatures and preferably with light snow on the ground, according to DFPD. Weather forecasters are calling for rainy or snowy conditions Wednesday, which will reduce the risk of wildfire, Nielsen said.

If conditions allow, the burning will begin Wednesday and end Thursday in the Ella Vita (Overend Mountain Park) and Tanque Verde (Dalla Mountain Park) areas. About 260 piles will occur near the base of Animas City Mountain.

“Small amounts of smoke may be visible for several days after the burning,” according to the release. “DFPD personnel will continue to monitor the pile burning locations until there is no smoke or fire.”

The slash piles were gathered as part of a mitigation effort involving the city of Durango, La Plata County, the fire department and wildland agencies to reduce fuels and create a buffer zone around the city to help stop wildfires from encroaching into the city, Nielsen said.

“We really appreciate the public's ongoing support for this because this is very important work, and there's not a lot of cities and fire districts around the country doing this right now,” Nielsen said. “This is kind of our new vision for protecting our community.”

Trails, trailheads and parking areas will remain open during the burns. However, backcountry users should be aware firefighters are working in the area.


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