Mountain West Helicopter pilot Randy Mason takes off in a Bell UH-1H after being refueled at the Seaman Reservoir spillway, near Fort Collins, Colo., on Friday, July 20, 2012. In the foreground is an aerial seed spreader, used in the continuing aerial application of straw and seed mix to mitigate soil and ash runoff from the mountainous terrain leading to Seaman Reservoir, drinking water resource for the City of Greeley. The 100-150-foot cable below it holds and releases loads of certified straw weighing 1,400 â 2,000 pounds. Forest service lands received straw, while private and other lands receive a seed mix and straw to promote ground cover plant growth on ash-covered lands. In total, 1,800 tons of straw will be applied during the 14-day operation. One quarter of the cost was paid by the City of Greeley and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the remainder. The Hewlett Gulch Fire was started by a camperâs alcohol stove, on May 14, at the saddle of a picturesque mountain ridge along the Hewlett Gulch Trail of Poudre Canyon, in the Roosevelt National Forest, 60 miles north of Denver. At itâs peak more than 400 firefighters were battling fires being pushed by 50 mph winds that helped blacken over 12-square-miles of dry ground cover, brush and trees. Many of the trees were already dead and tinder dry from beetle-kill. Their efforts have successfully kept water in the reservoir clean and clear, while downstream water flow has gone from famous Colorado clear water to nearly black flows of water heavily laden with ash, silt, and burnt debris that recent thunderstorms have already washed down from the mountainsides. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
May 4, 2014
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