Should the U.S. Forest Service be allowed to let certain fires on national forest lands burn without hindrance?
That is the question attendees at the recent public meeting here hosted by U.S. Forest Service officials were asked to consider.
Forest service officials are proposing the use of a fire tool called Wildland Fire Use as a way to manage naturally occurring fires in public wild lands.
During the meeting, officials noted that most fires occurring in wild land environments are started by natural causes such as lightning.
Many experts now concur that naturally occurring fires are important for the health of the forest, with a number of species of animals and plants depending on fire for survival.
Also noted was that when fires are suppressed, trees, grasses, needles, leaves, brush and other natural fuels often build up.
Those fuels do not just disappear, officials said, and eventually a fire erupts.
Those fires are often catastrophic because there is so much vegetation burning.
Such catastrophic fires can devastate large portions of the land, burning everything from the roots to the tree tops.
On the other hand, said officials, when naturally occurring fires are allowed to burn unhindered over a period of time, there is less fuel to ignite and as a result damage is reduced and the fire often extinguishes on its own.
Further noted was that any wildfire being allowed to burn under a Wildland Fire Use plan would be carefully monitored to protect life and private property.
Wildland Fire Use is similar to a prescribed burn, said officials.
By allowing fire to resume its natural role on the landscape, said officers, it will eventually reduce the risk of larger more intense fires, which pose a threat to the safety of the public and to the firefighters working to suppress them.
Currently, the policy of the U.S. Forest Service is to suppress all naturally occurring fires on public lands. Before that policy can be changed, public hearings are being held throughout the state.
Among the U.S. Forest Service personnel in attendance were Paul Crespin, Mike Smith and Jeff Oathier.
For additional information or to provide input regarding the proposed plan, contact Smith in Canon City at 269-8704.