San Juan National Forest will burn about 1,500 acres near Vallecito this spring as part of a larger project to reduce fire risk and restore forests.
The Columbine Ranger District and its partners will conduct the prescribed burn this spring in the Beaver Meadows and First Notch areas about 10 miles northeast of Bayfield. The U.S. Forest Service has yet to release dates for the burn, but operations could begin as soon as early April.
Weather conditions and the availability of firefighters will determine the time frame for the burn.
Fire crews will light fires over several consecutive days using ground teams and aerial support to reach difficult terrain. However, the project could take weeks to finish, according to a San Juan National Forest news release Friday.
Residents of Bayfield and Pagosa Springs and those traveling along U.S. Highway 160 can expect to see smoke. Heavier smoke will be visible in the mornings as fire crews complete the burns and will dissipate through the day, clearing out by midday, the news release said.
At night, smoke will travel downslope along Beaver Creek and the Piedra River to the Pine River north of Ignacio.
The prescribed burn is one of several the Forest Service plans to oversee in the Columbine Ranger District this spring. The agency aims to burn a total of about 2,500 acres across four different areas in the district, according to the San Juan National Forest Prescribed Fire Program on InciWeb, an online interagency emergency information system.
In the Dolores Ranger District, forest managers have outlined five priority projects they hope to complete this year totaling nearly 12,000 acres. They plan to begin with 4,331 acres of burning near Boggy Draw northeast of Dolores.
In the Pagosa Springs Ranger District, the Forest Service aims to conduct prescribed burns on 1,042 acres near Turkey Springs northwest of Pagosa Springs.
The Columbine Ranger District’s prescribed burn near Vallecito is part of the agency’s larger Vallecito-Piedra Integrated Vegetation Management Project.
In 2018, the district initiated the project to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and restore the forest’s ponderosa pine ecosystems. The plan called for more than 80,000 acres of prescribed burns and unplanned forest fires.
For more information about the Beaver Meadows and First Notch prescribed burn this spring, residents can call the Columbine Ranger District at 884-2512.