Colorado bans controlled burn fires

Gov. John Hickenlooper has issued a ban on prescribed burns on state land

DENVER, | March 30, 2012

" using fire as a management tool does carry some risk"

— Rich Homann

After a controlled burn jumped a perimeter in Colorado, destroying 27 buildings and killing at least two people, the state has banned such burns, officials say.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has issued a ban on all prescribed burns on state land pending formal review following the outbreak of the Lower North Fork fire Monday, The Denver Post reported.

State forest officials apologized Wednesday but fire authorities maintained prescribed fires are required to prevent even worse catastrophes.

"Doing a lot of small ones gets us closer to avoiding the big one," Rich Homann, fire division supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service, said. "It needs to be acknowledged that using fire as a management tool does carry some risk."

Prescribed fires rarely escape, experts said, but this month's conditions proved difficult with warmer temperatures and high winds.

Still, prescribed fire remains an important tool, said Skip Smith, Forest and Rangeland Stewardship Department head at Colorado State University, which oversees the State Forest Service.

"Either wait for the big one, or burn fuels under moderate conditions where the fire behavior can be controlled," Smith said. "If we don't do hazardous fuel mitigation, then, when a wildfire does burn, it burns with more intensity and is more difficult to suppress."

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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