BLM plans burn near Maybell |

BLM plans burn near Maybell

Jeremy Browning

Motorists on Highway 318 west of Maybell likely will see plumes of smoke rising from the land this week as the Bureau of Land Management conducts a prescribed burn of dense vegetation in Ryegrass Draw.

The burn will begin Tuesday if weather conditions permit.

The purpose of the burn, according to the BLM, is to provide protection to the community of Greystone by reducing fuels in the area.

Previous mechanical preparations used “brush beaters” to mow vegetation in the area, providing a barrier between the burn area and the community of Greystone, which is less than a mile away in some places.

Firefighters hope to reduce the continuity of fuels such as sagebrush and pinyon/juniper trees and effect the intensity of future fires in the area where lightning strikes historically start several fires a year.

“We do get quite a few lighting starts in that area,” said Cliff Hutton, assistant fire management officer. “We’re trying to burn (the area) to put in a fuel break.”

In the last 50 years, sagebrush grasslands have been increasingly overcome by creeping pinyon/juniper forests, according to Dale Bergstrom, fire management specialist. These trees increase the intensity of fires in the area. Bergstrom said he anticipates flames an average of four- to 11-feet high during the prescribed burn.

The Ryegrass burn is part of the Douglas Mountain Project, a fuel reduction plan that resulted in a 400-acre prescribed burn in the lower Browns Draw, south of Greystone earlier this year. After the 1,445-acre Ryegrass burn, two more areas are scheduled to be burned as part of the Douglas Mountain Project, including one in the upper Browns Draw, and one in the Jack Springs Draw, farther to the west.

Bergstrom said he won’t know if he’ll need to use a helicopter until crews burn the blackline. During the blackline operation, the BLM will be able to determine if hand lighting will be able to produce the necessary speed and intensity to carry out the burn.

Helicopters use a heli-torch, which drips flammable alumagel onto the vegetation. Another aerial ignition method uses small plastic spheres that are injected with a fluid. A plastic sphere dispenser drops the balls from the helicopter, igniting the vegetation.

The BLM hopes to obtain a “mosaic pattern,” leaving patches of unburned vegetation scattered throughout the area for wildlife habitat, especially the sage grouse.

Hutton will be on hand to monitor the fire and lead an initial attack should the fire get out of control.

The BLM anticipates the burn will take several days to complete.

Hutton said burning operations only take place during the daylight hours.

“With (weather) cooling off, as soon as you lose the sun, you lose your burning conditions,” Hutton said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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