Members of the Philmont Conservation Team have taken advantage of significant winter snow events to burn more than 450 slash piles since January 1st! Crews have been building these piles for the past couple of years from branches and slash created by forest management projects designed to restore historic forest structure and increase fire resiliency. Crews participating in treks this summer had the opportunity to help with thinning as part of their conservation project. This winter piles have burned between Lovers Leap and Crater Lake, at the Demonstration Forest, and at the Chase Ranch.
Burning piles is a labor-intensive process, here are the steps:
**Disclaimer: Planning, experience, and permitting is required for pile burns. The Philmont Fire Department and experts are consulted to ensure the safety of staff and the land. Do not try this at home.**
1. Wait for the perfect weather (snow depth, humidity, and wind speeds must be within the prescribed parameters).
2. Hold a safety briefing and ensure all staff knows the plan.
3. Light piles using a drip torch. The drip touches are filled with a specially-mixed fuel and help crews light the entire pile.
4. Watch the piles burn, this is the fun (and warm part)!
5. Piles are observed and tended to as needed. Staff “chunk” the piles to burn all contents of the pile. Additional brush is added from near the pile to help consume more of the fuel.
6. Staff continue to light more piles and check on piles that are smoldering. Sawyers are on hand to cut down trees that fall victim to high flames from the piles. The moisture limits this, but the occasional tree succumbs to the flames.
7. Start building more slash piles to burn next year!
Have you helped build any piles? Are you coming to PhilBreak? Let us know in the comments.
Photos by Henry Hibbeln