Prescribed Burns
Prescribed burn

Prescribed Burn Projects

Prescribed Burn at Heil Valley Ranch Canceled

The burn window has closed and there will not be a prescribed burn at Heil Valley Ranch in 2017. Fire managers will set new dates in early 2018.

Email Notifications

If you would like to be notified of upcoming prescribed burns, please send an email to with “Sign Up” in the subject line.

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Notification & Updates

Public notification of the burns and corresponding park closures will be released 48 hours prior to ignition. Updates will be sent out as conditions warrant.

To receive email notifications, please contact

Updates will be also be posted on Twitter and Facebook.


Boulder County Parks and Open Space, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Wildland Fire Management, along with numerous local and federal fire departments, will be conducting the burns. The project areas are well contained by trails and roads, and fire hoses and fire engines will completely surround the area during the duration of the burns. Firefighting resources will remain on site until the fire is confirmed as being controlled by significant weather conditions or determined to be out.

Conditions & Weather

To determine if conditions are suitable for ignitions, fire managers assess fuel moisture levels and continuously monitor current and projected weather forecasts. Weather considerations include wind, temperature, relative humidity and air quality. Conditions have to meet certain criteria in order for the prescribed burn to proceed. Fire personnel will stop burning if weather conditions change and do not allow for a safe operation (gusty winds), or the situation becomes unsafe. Weather and safety conditions are monitored constantly.

Why Burn an Area Again?

Fire crews plan to reenter a section of the Wapiti Prescribed Burn that was initially burned in the fall of 2014, with the goal of further reducing the amount of wood chips, tree debris, and slash within the area. Previous forestry projects at Heil Valley Ranch involved tree thinning and chipping, which resulted in large areas where wood chips and slash were dispersed back into the forest. This material can hold heat and burn for a long duration of time. The more of wood chips and slash that fire fighters burn during a prescribed burn will allow for better control and containment the next time a wildfire spreads across the area.

Wildlife Concerns

  • It is past the breeding season for migratory birds, and resident owls are just beginning courtship. Bird species that stay here during winter are mobile and can move out of the burn area.
  • Large mammals such as deer and elk are very mobile and can move out of the area. The human activity in the area prior to ignition will likely cause the animals to move.
  • Smaller mammals such as bobcat, fox, skunk, and raccoon will be able to move out of the area or use rocky outcrops and dens.
  • Areas of high wildlife value and adjacent forest stands were removed from the burn area to ensure there will still be nearby habitat for these species.
  • Since a lot of ground maintenance has been done to guide fire behavior and promote more understory and ground fire rather than an intense crown fire, a lot of unburned areas are likely. Animals like squirrels should be able to find refuge in standing trees.
  • Snakes and lizards reduce activity during this time of year, and typically are already taking cover in burrows, under rocks and in rocky outcrops.
  • Steps have been taken to create wildlife habitat, such as tree snags for bats and bird species, as part of this event.

After the Burn

  • Residual smoke may be visible.
  • Firefighting resources will remain on the prescribed burn until the fire is confirmed as being controlled by significant weather conditions or determined to be out.
  • There are also monitoring plots for important data gathering. These plots were studied before the fire, and researchers will return after the fire to document scientific changes.

Smoke Issues

  • Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. Learn how to protect your health from wood smoke.
  • During a prescribed burn, smoke is generated and will drift according to wind currents and other atmospheric conditions.
  • Smoke could settle in areas at night when cooler air traps the smoke particles closer to the surface of the ground.
  • Smoke will be visible from Foothills Highway, Lyons, Boulder, Estes Park, Longmont, Fort Collins, Loveland and possibly east to I-25.
  • Children, older adults and people with heart or lung disease are more likely to be effected by smoke.
  • Close windows and stay indoors if you are concerned.

Benefits of Prescribed Fire

  • Reduces hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires.
  • Minimizes the spread of pest insects and disease.
  • Removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem.
  • Provides habitat for foraging wildlife.
  • Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species.
  • Recycles nutrients back to the soil.
  • Promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants.

Completed Burns

Prescribed Burn at Hall Ranch

Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain

  • Completed on September 1, 2017
  • 185 acres were burned during the burn window
  • Burn Area Map

Wapiti 2 Burn at Heil Valley Ranch

  • Completed on March 16, 2016
  • 150 of the 270 acre project area were burned

Overlook Burn at Heil Valley Ranch

  • Completed on October 28, 2015
  • 22 acres burned
  • Approximately 70 firefighters from 15 local fire protection districts and agencies provided resources for the project
  • All fire was contained within the burn unit perimeter and the fire’s edge has been secured
  • The goal of this project was to reduce forest understory fuels to help decrease the occurrence and impact from large uncharacteristic wildfires
  • Overlook Prescribed Burn Report

Nighthawk Burn at Hall Ranch

  • Completed on October 14, 2015
  • Fire was introduced to at least 75% of the burn unit in a mosaic pattern
  • To help decrease the occurrence and impact from large uncharacteristic wildfires, the forest understory fuels were reduced by up to 75%
  • The fire intensity was high enough to remove all surface vegetation down to mineral soil on up to 25% of the unit, creating conditions able to support natural ponderosa pine regeneration
  • Post fire monitoring will continue and a report will be available for the public to view when completed
  • Nighthawk Prescribed Burn Report

Wapiti Burn at Heil Valley Ranch

  • Completed on November 9, 2014
  • 150 acres burned

Contact Us

Parks & Open Space

Erin Hartnett