The reduction of hazardous fuels is a significant preventative management tool used in preparation for managing wildfire near structures and communities. As seen with the Fern Lake Fire, previous reduction of hazardous fuels aided firefighters in stopping the fire within the park when it made its more than 3 mile run on the morning of December 1, 2012. Ultimately, these projects are done to protect life and property and enhance the safety of firefighters and their ability to manage fire within the park.
Fire Management staff at Rocky Mountain National Park completed the final phase of fuels reduction on over 250 acres this past winter, burning around 1,600 piles. Firewood permits were also available by lottery to collect previously cut wood generated from hazard tree removals and wildland fuels reduction. The annual fuels reduction effort will continue this summer and fall with plans to work on 350 acres on the north and east slopes of Deer Mountain next to the park boundary and an additional 125 acres on the Glacier Creek to Mill Creek fuels reduction project. Crews will also reduce fuels within 200 feet of US 34 from the Fall River Entrance to Deer Ridge Junction, US 36 from Deer Ridge Junction past the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and maintain past treatments on Bear Lake Road between the Glacier Basin Campground and Sprague Lake.
Work will include removing dead trees, the lower limbs of remaining trees, ladder fuels, dead and down logs, and the removal of selected trees to increase canopy spacing. Resulting woody materials will be piled on site and burned in the following winters or may be used next year or in upcoming years for firewood permits depending on location.
These projects are not designed as a stand-alone defense against wildfires, nor are they guaranteed to hold wildfire in the worst conditions.