BLM crews cut hazardous trees

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A convoy of yellow Bureau of Land Management trucks negotiated the winding road and uphill grade to the Freeman Recreation area north of Craig for a little chainsaw practice Thursday.

The target of the fire crew's saws was a large number of dead trees, killed during a period of years by a beetle infestation.

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Crew leader Engine Captain Brett Stearns tightened his saw's chain while discussing the plan.

"We're going to clear out the hazardous trees, so the people camping don't have to worry about trees coming down on them," he said.

The bureau sent 16 fire-crew members to the campground to remove about 100 trees that had been flagged earlier by the U.S. Forest Service.

In a joint operation between the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Moffat County, the focus of the effort was to make camping in the area safer.

Many of the BLM crews are made up of seasonal workers, assigned to specific trucks for the summer. They are on call in case of wildland fires nationwide.

Each engine carries a crew of three to five individuals plus a captain, and they are responsible for the initial attack on fires in the Northwest Colorado area.

The BLM fire crews took the opportunity to get in some saw training during this inter-agency operation.

"This breaks everybody in to our standard operating procedures, and some safety training," Stearns said. "It was last summer since we felled any trees."

Workers will clear dead trees from 100 feet around campsites, leaving the firewood for campers arriving this summer.

Stearns expects his crew will return for a time next week to finish up this year's cutting of hazardous trees in that part of the forest.

He returns to work with a warning for all campers enjoying the forests of Colorado.

"It's always good to know where the dead trees are when you are camping," he said. "Look around before choosing a campsite."

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