Lost Solar Fire considered a natural process

MEEKER I Incident commander Jim Genung of the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit and Pat York, fire information officer from southern Illinois, spoke to a small group at the Meeker Regional Library Sept. 22 regarding the current status of the Lost Solar Fire in the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Big Fish Fire on the Flat Tops in 2002, and the role of wildfire to the health of the ecosystem. The Lost Solar Fire is being managed using the “confine and contain” strategy for the purpose of allowing the fire to take its natural course while still monitoring the fire’s progress. “A lightning strike in the woods is a natural process,” Genung explained. “It’s expected by those ecosystems. That’s a hard thing for people to accept.” Genung shared photos of the Big Fish Fire from 2002, pointing out the benefits of fire on the landscape, habitat and ecosystem. “The type of event that happened at Big Fish was probably a 300-400 year event,” he said. Wildlife that prefers open meadows, nutrient-rich soil and sunlight benefit soon after a wildfire. Birds and small mammals use the “snags” for shelter, and large herbivores like elk and deer are attracted to the new vegetation. Aspen trees are a fire-dependent species. Wildfire encourages the aspen’s root systems and promotes increased “suckering.” “We need to allow fire to play its role on the landscape. If it’s a human-caused fire we’re going to put it out. If it’s a lightning fire we’re going to look at where it’s going to go and what it’s going to do, and where it is located,” Genung said. The Lost Solar Fire is burning in the Marvine drainage, which has a short window for fire season because of its altitude (8,000-11,000 feet in elevation). According to Genung, the fire will probably continue to burn until snowfall in that area. “This fire is a good example of the natural process and how this has happened for millennia. The more we can do of this (managed burns) the less of that (large, difficult to control burns) we will see.” The Blanco District of the White River National Forest is monitoring the fire and evaluating access and temporary closures. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to call 970-456-1620 for current updates or visit inciweb.nwcg.gov for more information.