DENVER (CBS4)– Smoke and fire rose from the grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge again on Friday as firefighters worked on a controlled burn.
“It’s something we’ve been doing for a long time,” said firefighter and spokeswoman Sarah Metzer. “In addition to the habitat restoration work that we do and using fire as a tool for that, we also use fire as a tool to mitigate these fuels.”
In recent years, quarters have been built even closer to the refuge’s 27 square miles.
“On all sides of us, we’re starting to see that growth.”
The Marshall Fire inspires homeowners and firefighters to think more about the interface of urban wildfires. Many suburban homeowners and neighborhood associations visit fire departments like West Metro to ask questions about it, said Capt. Finnegan, Wildland program coordinator.
“Now is a good time to look at those areas and start planning to phase out some of those fuels,” Finnegan said.
In areas where homes adjoin wild grasslands and open spaces, this can be a selling point.
“Actually, as we’ve seen, it’s also a high fire risk area,” Finnegan said. “It’s this beautiful balance between beauty, privacy and the benefits of natural resources.”
The Marshall Fire taught them that different things burn and carry fire in the urban interface.
“Trash cans, patio furniture, cushions and that compact distance between houses were the most important…Houses became a whole different model of fuel as they exposed from house to house.”
He suggests at least three-quarters of an inch of rock for every five feet around a house. In mountainous areas, people seek to fell trees within 30 and 60 feet. In suburban areas, neighboring houses may be much closer.
At the wildlife refuge, the fire is doing the job it always has, cutting down combustibles and helping to open some fire-dependent grass seeds. But it is carefully controlled.
“We incorporated some places where the fire might ordinarily would have passed through that and cleared some of those areas naturally,” Metzer said.
But she looked forward to seeing how things would turn green in the weeks following this week’s burns, “It will be a lush carpet of greenery.”