MESA COUNTY, Colo.- The Pine Gulch Fire is now 100% contained, according to a local Bureau of Land Management Spokesperson.
The same spokesperson also says total cost of fighting the Pine Gulch Fire totals about $35 million. The cost will be covered by a combination of state and federal funds.
On Wednesday Casey Hammond, who serves as the Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals for the Department of the Interior, visited the burn scar of the Pine Gulch Fire to discuss what his agency will do to assist in fire recovery.
“As we’ve seen throughout the West, areas where we’ve been able to do fuel treatment management, we’ve had a much better result in terms of fires, and in terms of mitigating fires,” Hammond said.
The fuel treatment management Hammond is referring to was outlined in a 2018 executive order from President Trump which calls for clearing out thousands of acres of vegetation across the Western U.S. in areas identified as high risk for wildfires.
“The president set very aggressive targets for us to meet, and the Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, have done an excellent job in meeting those targets set by the president,” Hammond said “Fire is going to happen but there are things we can do.”
Some of those targets include treating 3.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land to reduce fire fuels. Other fire fuel reduction efforts include selling off trees on Forest Service land for timber sales.
The devastation in the burn scar of the Pine Gulch Fire on the environment is widespread, but a member of the federal Burned Area Response Team with the National Park Service says the soil in the fire’s burn scar is actually intact, which will lead to a slow but ultimately successful recovery.
“There’s an intact root system, root structure, and we anticipate a flush of vegetation post fire,” said Chris Holbeck, a BAER Team Lead. “When we saw all of that scorched landscape, we sort of anticipated the soil system to be worse than it was, but it wasn’t because I think it was because it was so dry.”
Holbeck adds, while the situation with the soil may be okay, flash floods remain a risk if it rains in the area of the fire.
“The loss of vegetation causes an increase in runoff and the watershed response which can be dangerous or damage infrastructure and be a threat to people.”