Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire

The Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire successfully treated 900 acres!

The project will enhance wildlife habitat and reduce fuels in mountain shrub and aspen ecosystems. Click here for a behind-the-scenes photo blog on the operation.

Click here for an information sheet and map of the Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire.

Click here to watch a short video on the Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire.

Click here to view a talk by USFS Prescribed Fire Specialist Jim Genung on the importance of projects like this in our area.

Click here for a photo blog on a recent prescribed burn in the Avalanche Creek-Filoha Meadows area.

The U.S. Forest Service is partnering with ACES, Pitkin County, the City of Aspen, Aspen Fire, and Wilderness Workshop to conduct a prescribed fire in the Hunter Creek Valley in the spring of 2016. The project is to be implemented under the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, which was finalized in early 2014 and seeks to improve wildlife habitat, forest resiliency and recreation in the Hunter Creek Valley and surrounding landscape. Click here for more information on the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan. 

Why does the Hunter Creek Valley need Prescribed Fire?

Fire is part of a natural and healthy ecosystem. In the absence of natural fire, the forest and shrubs become dominated by older trees which provide less and lower quality food for wildlife. Fresh leaves, berries and acorns, become rare. Regularly occurring fires (whether natural or prescribed) stimulate this new and nutritional growth and also reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels. This decreases the chance of catastrophic wildfires, which pose a significant risk to neighboring communities.

Benefits of Prescribed Fire:

       Enhance wildlife habitat;

       Manage for a more diverse, healthy and sustainable forest;

       Reduce hazardous fuels and manage wildfire risk in the Wildland Urban Interface;

       Protect water quality and greater watershed health;

       Restores a critical landscape process that has been excluded from the area

Where, when and how long will the burn occur?

Where: Please reference the attached map here for an outline of where the prescribed burn will take place. We are asking the public to refrain from recreating in the Hunter Creek Smuggler area for approximately 1-3 days during the prescribed burn.

When: The project will be implemented when conditions are ideal for a safe and effective prescribed fire. Conditions are considered suitable when the snow has melted off the south-facing aspects (slopes) in Hunter Creek and all other surrounding areas are still retaining moisture and snow. These conditions typically occur in April or early May. Other environmental factors such as wind, temperature and relative humidity will be key elements.

Duration: Please note that the work will be taking place over a 1-3 day period. After which, officials will declare the area safe to recreate in.

What should be expected during the prescribed fire?

On the day of the burn please do not call 911. There may be large volumes of smoke visible at times in the Hunter Creek valley and people may even see flames.

Recreation and trail use: For your own safety, please refrain from recreating in the Hunter Creek Valley until the area is declared safe. Updates will be available at the White River National Forest Twitter account @WhiteRiverNews, the White River National Forest website: or by calling the Sopris Ranger Station at (970)-963-2266. 

Smoke: Prior to burning, a smoke permit is obtained through the state of Colorado - Air Pollution Control Division. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Unit (UCR) works hard to minimize smoke impacts on surrounding communities. For real-time air quality updates, please visit

If you have a smoke sensitivity, please contact Jim Genung at 970-404-3150 so we can keep you informed of smoke conditions. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. Click here for more information.

Where can I get real time information and sign up for alerts?

       Real-time updates will be available on Twitter @WhiteRiverNews or @UCRFireCenter

       Sopris Ranger Station: 970-963-2266

       Aspen Fire Department: Parker Lathrop, 970-925-5532

       Pitkin County Alert System: Information about the prescribed burn will be 
disseminated via the Pitkin Alert system. Click here to sign up for the alert system.

       The Garfield and Eagle County alert 
systems will also provide information during the prescribed fire. More information 
is available here for Garfield County and here for Eagle County.

How do firefighters prevent the prescribed fire from spreading?

 Man-made and natural features in the area, such as snowpack, roads and trails within the burn area will be used to prevent unwanted spread. Additionally, the Forest Service will have a helicopter and several fire engines on stand-by and staged at the prescribed burn. The Aspen Fire Department will also have fire engines in the Hunter Creek Area.

 Crews patrol the April 2015 prescribed fire on Basalt Mountain. Prescribed fires burn slowly and close to

the ground, clearing out the understory while leaving much of the overstory intact. 

 Will the fire burn up all the trees and blacken the landscape?

No. Prescribed fire differs from the tall, raging crown fires often pictured in the news. They move slowly along the ground, consuming the underbrush. The tree species in the area, including Gambel oak, aspen and mountain shrub, are quick to resprout following fire, often greening up in a matter of weeks. 

 Regrowth from the same prescribed fire, four months later. Plentiful spring precipitation quickly re-greened

the landscape and provided fresh forage for wildlife.