Controlled burn fills valley with smoke |

Controlled burn fills valley with smoke

Pilot & Today staff

— A previously planned controlled burn on Elk Mountain caused smoke and haze in and around Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon.

The burn is finished, BLM spokesman David Boyd said. The Bureau of Land Management's Little Snake Field Office handled the 725-acre prescribed burn on Elk Mountain, also known as Sleeping Giant. The goal of the burn was to reduce built-up fuels and improve wildlife habitat on the southern side of the mountain, according to the BLM.

When the BLM prepares for a prescribed burn, it gets a "spot weather forecast," which is specific to the burn area, Boyd said. The forecast Thursday for the Elk Mountain burn showed winds coming from the southwest. At about 3:30 p.m., he said, the winds started coming from the north.

"At that point, at 3:30, they were already done igniting, so that was smoke that was already in the air," Boyd said about the smoke that headed for Steamboat. "So that was something that wasn't anticipated."

He said people with respiratory problems should consider staying inside if the air is smoky.

The BLM says it has obtained all the required permits and plans for the burn. A similar burn was conducted earlier this month near Stagecoach Reservoir.

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“Before we do a prescribed burn, we get air quality permits from the state of Colorado as part of the whole planning,” Boyd said. A representative from that state agency was on hand to monitor the smoke, he said.

He said the BLM initially planned to burn 660 acres but was able to burn 725 because the process went smoothly.

Boyd said the fire is meant to cut down on fuels that could feed future wildfires and to enable growth of new grasses and flowering plants, which feed wildlife. He said most of the fire was out and the BLM didn’t expect the smoke to linger.

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