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News Release

Slash Pile Burn Plans Near Estes Park Delayed

Department: Natural Resources
Release Date: Feb 11, 2013

Contact Information:

Jeffrey Boring, Resource Specialist, 679-4569,


January days normally bring snowfall and smoke as public agencies burn slash piles under carpets of snow. But just like 2012, when scant snow fell along the Front Range, the winter of 2013 is turning out to have record low snowfall. December and January have been extremely dry months. Between December 1 and January 31 less than ½ inch of snow fell in Estes Park. In average years, Estes Park receives over 4.5 inches of snow during these months. Dismal snow pack creates problems for water managers across the state; it also affects forest management.
“In a normal year, our Emergency Services staff will burn 50 slash piles a day, over a winter that can total 300-400 piles,” said Jeffrey Boring, Resource Specialist with the Larimer County Natural Resources Department. “Due to the lack of snow events, we’ve burned 0 piles thus far.” “Slash” is a term for branches, needles and other small diameter wood produced during forest thinning operations. The larger diameter material is stacked and given away to the public. Slash is generally concentrated into piles and burned in the winter, when snow covers the ground.
Pile burning is regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. In Larimer County, the landowner is required to get an Open Burn Permit, through the County’s Department of Health and Environment. The local Fire Department must also approve the permit. “The state and local authorities regulate pile burning for obvious reasons: if not properly planned, small fires can get out of control quickly and all fires produce smoke and fine particulate matter that can affect people with respiratory ailments,” said Boring. The landowner must also notify applicable Fire Dispatch the day of and immediately before commencing burning, as well as after the burn event is complete.
Weather conditions also dictate when slash can be burned. Wind speeds must be 10 mph or less and at least 3 inches of snow must cover the ground around the pile. Piles must be lit before 2 PM and out by sunset, and no overnight burning is allowed.
Hermit Park Open Space, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Carter Lake County Park are the County’s three priorities for pile burning this winter. Boring estimates there are approximately 500 piles between these three public properties. “It’s good forest management to thin dense stands of trees, it reduces wildfire threats and improves wildlife habitat,” Boring said. But, thinning creates a lot of slash and the most practical way of managing slash is to burn it. Larimer County Natural Resources and Emergency Services departments will continue to monitor weather conditions and plan pile burns accordingly. “We’re ready to go, but we’re going to wait on Mother Nature to give us the green light,” Boring said. 
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