Coming soon to Grand County: Devices could expedite wood waste disposal
Grand County commissioners are looking at a wood waste disposal system that could be cleaner, faster and cheaper than open burning or chipping.
Mike Schmitt, North American sales manager for Air Burners, explained his product to commissioners on Tuesday. Air Curtain Burners, also known as FireBoxes, are essentially pollution control devices for open burning.
According to materials provided by Air Burners, wood waste is put into the box and ignited before an air curtain is engaged. The air curtain then traps smoke particles in the box until they re-burn down to an “acceptable size.”
The company says that this wood waste burns much faster in the box than open burning because of the constant air flow. Schmitt explained that these machines have been tested all over the US for their environmental impact.
“Those tests showed we were the cleanest way to get rid of wood waste compared to grinding and hauling, compared to composting, and compared to open burning,” Schmitt said.
He added that the FireBoxes have been utilized to quickly remove wood waste after natural disasters like hurricanes and the California wildfires. Locally, there is currently one permitted Air Curtain Burner operating in Winter Park.
Mike Garrett, who brought the conversation to the commissioners, pointed out that following the East Troublesome Fire and its accompanying wind event, local landfills are filling up with wood waste.
“We think this is the most effective way and the cleanest way to get ride of this waste,” Garrett said.
Ron Cousineau with the Colorado State Forest Service vouched for the program, which he said helps dispose of woody biomass and mitigate wildfire risk.
“Everybody knows at this point, we have a fuels problem in the High Country and Grand County,” he said.
The Grand County Wildfire Council offers chipping days for wood waste throughout the year, but a big issue beyond the expense is that it leaves a byproduct — the wood chips. Alternatively, the FireBoxes leave just ash and carbon.
While chipping remains a helpful way to reduce fuels, this product was pitched as another way to up the county’s capabilities for getting rid of unwanted wood.
“It’s time to start increasing the scale of woody debris disposal,” Cousineau said. “The chipping program is great and we need that — that’s a tool — but if we can increase the scale of eliminating fuels, we’re making more progress.”
A burner is already on its way to the county and should be here by early April. There are discussions on finding a finite site for that burner that could bring the tool to areas most in need of wood waste disposal.
Garrett also hopes the county can find a permanent spot for a large FireBox that could serve not only those affected by the fire, but also people and fire departments doing mitigation.
The county commissioners were largely in favor of the concept. No decisions were made, but there are plans for a future workshop to determine possible locations.
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