Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Forest Service plans fire reduction project

Warm Springs canyon residents asked to comment on proposal

Express Staff Writer

If you live or own property in Warm Springs canyon west of Ketchum, you are invited to attend an informational meeting to discuss the future welfare of your neighborhood.

The key question: What methods would you like the U.S. Forest Service to use to try to keep your home and your backyard from burning down?

The federal agency's Ketchum Ranger District has been planning projects since last fall to reduce hazardous fuels in the area. But rangers are still looking for input from the area's residents.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Ketchum City Hall and will be the second meeting conducted since last fall to provide information to people about the need to reduce hazardous fuels in the canyon.

Of all areas in the Wood River Valley, Warm Springs canyon may be one of the most at-risk for the damaging effects of a raging wildfire, said Ketchum Ranger District Fire Management Officer Bill Murphy during an interview last fall. The area has not burned in 100 years and the forests there are threaded with homes. The aging forests are increasingly susceptible to wildfires.

Other populated canyons, like Deer Creek, Greenhorn Gulch and East Fork do not have the same combination of home density and an aged, high-density forest.

"The purpose of this meeting is to provide updated information regarding our proposed project," Nelson said. "We want to listen and hear what property owners have to say about this project. In addition, we would like to begin identifying possible temporary access points that may be needed across private land in order to remove hazardous fuels on adjacent National Forest lands.

"Foremost in our mind for any treatments being proposed is our desire to maintain the visual beauty of the area and forested slopes in the Warm Springs drainage during and after the proposed project."

Specific locations being considered for treatment are on national forest land directly adjacent to the following locations:

· The base of the Warm Springs ski lifts.

· Lower Board Ranch.

· Homestead Subdivision.

· Cord Subdivision.

· Bassett Gulch.

· Upper Board Ranch.

· Warfield Hot Springs.

The purpose of the proposed hazardous fuels reduction project is to reduce high intensity fire behavior, increase the margin of safety for people visiting the area and for firefighters defending private lands and buildings. Another purpose is to improve the survivability of homes in the event of a wildfire.

Additionally, the result of reducing fuel loading on timbered slopes next to homes would provide firefighters a greater chance of successfully suppressing a small wildfire before it becomes a large, damaging and costly fire.

An information paper, complete with a map showing potential treatment areas is available by contacting the Ketchum Ranger District offices on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum.

Call the office at 622-5371 or call Matt Filbert, project coordinator, at 727-5046.

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