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Hickenlooper Temporarily Bans Prescribed Burns Statewide

Smoke from the Lower North Fork Fire burning near Conifer.
Shawn Campbell
Flickr – Creative Commons
Smoke from the Lower North Fork Fire burning near Conifer.

With a wildfire continuing to burn through the foothills southwest of Denver, Governor John Hickenlooper says he will temporarily ban the state government’s use of prescribed burns on state land. Fire investigators believe the 38-hundred acre Lower North Fork Fire was caused by a flare-up from a prescribed burn in the area last week.

Prescribed burns are used to lower the risk of wildfires by removing combustible materials and promoting green growth. Jane Lopez is a prescription burn expert with the Colorado State Forest Service. While there are risks – Lopez is confident the Forest Service takes every precaution to ensure safe and effective burns.

“When you look at history and you look at some of the prescribed burns that have escaped, it's common practice to put a ban on prescribed burning for a period of time until you can investigate or review the circumstances of that escape.”

Some prescribed burn plans are over 200 pages long, and include wind speed forecasts, fuel moistures, communication, medical and safety plans. 

The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Governor Hickenlooper says the prescription fire ban will remain in effect until an investigation of the Lower North Fork Fire is complete.

A press released issued Wednesday afternoon by the Governor's office says the suspension applies only to state agencies and state lands. However, it says other non-state land agencies, such as county lands, federal lands and private lands, should examine their own procedures and consider appropriate steps.  

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