John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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May 6, 2008
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Fire near Carbondale Community School upsets parent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A controlled burn at a residence adjacent to the Carbondale Community School got out of control for a short time Tuesday morning, requiring assistance from the Carbondale Fire Department and worrying some parents of students attending CCS.The controlled burn was started about 8 a.m. and quickly spread to two trees within the yard of the home where the burn was happening. According to Carbondale Fire Deputy Chief Carl Smith, the resident was burning a small section of property next to his house, that was overgrown with native grasses and weeds, when a juniper and a ponderosa pine tree unexpectedly caught fire."By the time we got there the homeowner had put it out with a garden hose," Smith said.

But that didn't ease the worries of Elizabeth Murphy, who called the fire department, after she witnessed the fire latch onto the large tree as she dropped her kids off at school."This is not acceptable to me," Murphy said. "Not in a residential area like this, less than 100 yards from a school and especially with the fire season approaching."

Murphy questioned the area where the burn took place, despite it being just outside of the Carbondale city limits. The CCS is just within city limits separated from the residence where the burn occurred by only a dirt road."You don't need to burn this stuff, this is something that could have been done with a lawn mower and some garden gloves," Murphy said. "In a residential area like this, with businesses and a school 100 yards away, we need to use a little common sense. What if this had gotten really out of control? Then what happens?"Fire Chief Ron Leach sympathizes with Murphy and said boundaries are just one of the many problems the fire department deals with regarding open burning regulations."It's unnerving to have a fire adjacent to a school," Leach said. "I totally understand and sympathize with parents who dropped their kids off for a day and saw a tree burning next to the school."Leach said there are really "very few" regulations on open burning throughout the state of Colorado, making it a tricky situation for local authorities to regulate. The Garfield County Sheriff has "statutory responsibility" for wildfires in the area, according to Leach, and works directly with local fire districts to set the regulations that are in place. However, there needs to be more, according to Leach. But, he said, the local authorities are doing what they can to further regulate open burning."We have very little regulation to fall back on, so it's very difficult for us, particularly with the changing demographics in the valley," Leach said. "You're seeing less and less ranchers and more and more subdivisions, but the people burning have done so for a long time and will continue to do so, and the fire department is caught in the middle."On Tuesday, Smith said there were between 10 and 12 controlled burns going on around Carbondale that the fire department was notified of.

Leach said what is required of a property owner wanting to perform a controlled burn, within the Carbondale Fire District, is for residents to call and notify the fire department of who is doing the burn, and when, where and what they are burning. Then the fire department can talk about safety issues and how to appropriately perform a controlled burn."When people call us prior to the burn, surprisingly few of those burns get out of control," Leach said. "Those few minutes can really help." Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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The Post Independent Updated May 7, 2008 01:37AM Published May 6, 2008 02:00AM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.