A frontloader with a hydraulic fork grapple attachment, center, makes easy work positioning straw bales on cargo nets, right, loosening the straw for greater aerial dispersment, above right, and removing straw, behind loader on left, to adjusting the weight of the load for the continuing aerial application of straw to mitigate soil and ash runoff from the mountainous terrain leading to Seaman Reservoir, drinking water resource for the City of Greeley, on Friday, July 20, 2012, near Fort Collins, Colorado. 4-person load crews and heavy equipment operators unloaded 1,000 pound straw bales from tractor trailer rigs, stack them near the pickup point, then bring the bales onto cargo nets, for helicopters to lift and drop them onto barren, burned out tributary lands. Bell UH-1H (2-blade rotor) and A-Star Model B (3-blade rotor) aircraft launched from a landing zone at the foot of the reservoir spillway. The 100-150-foot lines 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 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. The water in the reservoir remains 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 17, 2014