The guardian of Colorado’s Front Range

Pike National Forest and the surrounding area offer a multitude of trails with breath-taking views. Visitors enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding. Covering an area of more than one million acres, the forest offers something for everyone, and its proximity to Denver makes it accessible.

Every day during fire season, generally running from May to November, Farinacci-Silfies climbs the 143 steps to her lookout tower to watch for signs of smoke, usually arising from campfires or lightning strikes. Once she detects smoke, she determines the fire’s location using her Osborne firefinder, a measurement tool used to find the azimuth, or directional bearing, of the distant fire, developed in 1911 by US Forest Service employee William Osborne. She then radios down to dispatch, who send firefighting crews to respond. Last year, Ashley spotted five fires, though hundreds more burned throughout the state.

The Front Range is prone to wildfires due to its dry climate. 2020 was the worst wildfire year on record, as nearly 700,000 acres burned. “Last year on the northern Front Range we saw a lot of wildfire activity, but it wasn’t as far south as us here in the Rampart Range area” Farinacci-Silfies said. “Lately this area has been largely untouched.” Though she hasn’t yet spotted any uncontrolled wildfires this season due to an unusually wet summer, she expects wildfire season to pick up as the rain subsides.

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