County bans fires six weeks earlier than last year |

County bans fires six weeks earlier than last year

Garfield County imposed a ban on open fires Monday, six weeks earlier than last year.

Worsening drought conditions prompted Gov. Bill Owens to ask county commissioners to impose the ban last week.

The ban is effective for one month and will be reconsidered at the commissioners’ June 3 meeting.

“We’re heading into the critical part of the season,” said county emergency management director Guy Meyer.

Meyer would also like to see a fire ban take effect automatically each year around Memorial Day or as conditions warrant, and end around Labor Day.

“We’ve had fire bans every year since 1990,” he said.

Warm, dry weather and high winds have reduced the moisture content in the plants that fuel wildfires. Meyer said the fuel moisture level now is between 7 and 10 percent, which creates a high potential for wildfire.

“We are looking at very (high) to extreme fire danger,” he said.

The fire ban prohibits trash fires, fires along fence rows, charcoal grill fires and campfires, except in permanent fire grates in designated campgrounds and recreation areas. Charcoal grill fires are allowed at private residences.

Smoking is prohibited outdoors except within an enclosed vehicle, a developed recreation area or an area of at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of flammable material.

Chain saws cannot be operated without an approved USDA or SAE approved spark-arrester, and operators must keep a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher nearby.

Irrigation ditches surrounded by irrigated farmland, where such burning is necessary for crop survival, is allowed with a permit from the Garfield County sheriff.

People who violate the ban are liable for a $3,000 fine for each separate violation.

The ban will remain in effect until June 3, when the county commissioners will consider extending it.

Last year, the ban extended from June 17 until July 17, and was extended another month to Aug. 17 before it was lifted.

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