Tumbleweeds take over Pueblo West
The whistling wind of the Wild West might conjure up images of dry deserts and the iconic tumbleweeds.
But after a recent wind storm in Pueblo West, the tumbleweeds weren’t a welcome sight.
“I have never seen anything (tumbleweeds) like this since the 1960’s,” said Pueblo West resident Gary Walker of Walker Ranchers.
“The combination of years of drought, too many prairie dogs, the late August rains/floods and not enough cattle to graze down the weeds and this is what you get.”
And it’s not just at Walker Ranches that experienced tumbleweeds spreading across property lines.
Pueblo West resident Dwain Maxwell approached the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors Nov. 12 and asked what happens when an overflow of tumbleweeds from surrounding neighbors enters the property.
Maxwell said his home was full of tumbleweeds from his neighbors yard.
“As fire chief, I want to see the community be aware of the importance that every property owner follow the proper procedures when trying to rid themselves of the weeds that have become a large issue around Pueblo West,” said Brian Caserta, Pueblo West Fire Chief.
“Everyone must have a burn permit and follow the instructions on the permit fully.
“The fire department is certainly monitoring the situation with the extra ordinary amount of tumbleweeds and the problems they are causing. We are not at the same magnitude as we were faced with in 2007 but learning from that past experience want to be better prepared to deal with a similar situation.
“The fire department will be developing a protocol to address the situation if and when a critical level is reached and the community needs assistance in dealing with a significant fire threat,” Caserta added.
It’s more than just Pueblo West that was hit with the bumper crop of tumbleweeds.
The influx of tumbleweeds was an unusual sight within the city limits to the neighbors to the north in Colorado Springs but still paled in comparison to the historic amounts that have piled up in eastern El Paso County during the past month.
Tumbleweeds were blamed for blocking traffic on Interstate 25 in the construction zone near the North Academy Boulevard exit, and other areas of Colorado Springs.
Tumbleweeds, also known as, Russian thistle, were imported to the U.S. in the 1870s and is considered a noxious weed.
“With the dry weather and the little bit of moisture we had a few months ago, comes the dreaded tumbleweeds,” said Brad Davidson, public information officer for the Pueblo West Fire Department.
“Especially with the winds that blow from the West across Pueblo West.
“The first thing residents want to do is get rid of the weeds by burning them,” he added.
“Here in Pueblo West, there are requirements with our burn permit process that must be followed to ensure the safety of the property and property owner.
“When burning tumble weeds, caution must be taken, although they look very easy to burn, this weed burns very fast and hot.
“When burning a pile of weeds, it sometimes can create its own wind and stir up the hot embers and ashes into the air and can blow onto neighboring property or cause further damage to their own property.”
A few steps than property owners can do to help make it safer to burn, is burning the tumble weeds in a barrel, in small amounts, away from any structures at least 50 feet, he said.
You must have a water source and have a valid burn permit and be in attendance with the fire at all times, he said.
If the wind is blowing more than 10 mph, you should put your fire out and wet down the area very good to ensure the fire and embers are completely out.
The area the burn is taking place should be cleared of other combustible debris.
Burning the weeds in small piles will help the property owner control the fire since the weeds do burn rapidly and give off excessive heat.
Another way to help contain the weeds while burning is the use of a type of metal fencing made out of metal, such as chicken wire as an example formed into a circle and put small amounts of weeds in it a time to control the burn.
Safety is the most important thing to keep in mind.
You can obtain a burn permit at Station 1 located at 51 E. Hahns Peak, or Station 3 on the North side at 729 Gold. You must be the property owner and must have an ID to obtain a permit between the hours of 8am to 5pm. All the steps are outlined on the permit to follow to help make the controlled burn goes smoothly. “The last thing to remember is if your fire does get out of control, call 911 immediately and make sure you are safe,” Davidson said.