Forest Service letting wildfire burn near Beaver in hopes of regenerating aspen grove

ST. GEORGE — Fire officials are monitoring the 2,000-acre Skull Flat wildfire near Beaver, which is being allowed to burn with the hope that it will help rejuvenate a nearby aspen grove. 

Smoke from the Skull Flat Wildfire burning five miles east of Beaver, Utah, June 27, 2019 | Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

The fire was initially ignited by lightning Tuesday about five miles outside of Beaver. No structures are currently threatened by the fire. 

Fire officials have used aerial ignition techniques that include torching the area by helicopter to help speed the burning process in an effort to reduce the number of smoky days in local communities, U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Kayli Yardley told St. George News. 

“With the aerial ignition, we’re able to cover a lot of ground and get it done a lot quicker and cleaner,” she said. “We’re going to have smoke for a few days as opposed to a few weeks.” 

Smoke settled in Beaver this morning but is currently moving to the north of town. 

Smoke from the Skull Flat Wildfire burning five miles east of Beaver, Utah, June 27, 2019 | Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

Officials are allowing the fire to burn to help clear the forest floor of overgrown vegetation and trees that are “dead and down” in the Beaver Watershed area. These fuels currently pose a potential fire hazard for any future, more catastrophic, wildfires. 

“It’s basically cleaning up an unhealthy forest, you know, you’re getting all that extra debris out and we’re letting the new stuff grow,” Yardley said. 

Not only will the fire help reduce the risk of future fires, but it will allow the groundwater to better seep into the earth, Yardley said. It will also improve wildlife habitat by producing new plant growth for them to live in and eat. 

“Wildlife love where the fires come in and burn because they have all this new growth coming in after,” she said. 

Additionally, there’s an old aspen grove in the area where the fire is burning, which officials hope will be able to regenerate itself after the fire. Aspen require a lot of water to survive, and with a clear forest floor, the trees will have less vegetation to compete with and fewer debris to reduce groundwater seepage. 

Updates and information about this and other fires can be found at InciWeb.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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