Fire bans gradually extinguished around region |

Fire bans gradually extinguished around region

One by one, counties and land agencies in the region are cautiously lifting fire restrictions.

Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, along with the U.S. Bureau of land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, have or soon will drop fire bans in favor of less restrictive regulations.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens rescinded the statewide fire ban Sept. 12, clearing the way for local entities to follow suit when they feel it’s warranted.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners plans to let its county-wide fire ban expire Oct. 4, Garfield County emergency services director Guy Meyer said. The ban was first enacted May 6 and has since been extended one month at a time.

“Usually in October we get some rain,” Meyer said. “Also, conditions have changed a little bit. It’s been cooler and it’s rained. There’s a lot of things that have contributed to letting it expire.”

The decision to let the ban run out could still be reversed, but this would happen only if conditions become significantly worse within the county, Meyer said.

Pitkin County is taking a similar course of action. Earlier in the month county officials announced their intention to stay with the ban until snow flies. But Tom Grady, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said he now expects the ban to be lifted in early October.

“We’re staying with the fire ban until the end of the month,” Grady said. “During the first week of October, we’ll sit down with the (fire) chiefs and review it.”

That meeting would have come even sooner, Grady said, but many who need to be involved in the decision-making process are tied up in court this week for the murder trial of Russell Thompson.

One factor compelling local entities to revoke their fire bans is the demand by hunters to allow campfires, Grady said.

“Hunting season is bringing pressure,” he said.

But one report made by firefighters battling the Thompson Creek Fire disturbed him.

“Even after five days of rain, it only saturated the ground for two inches,” he said.

Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson announced the repeal of Eagle County’s fire ban on Friday.

Eagle County’s ban went into effect on May 9. The outright ban was lifted, but there are still some restrictions. The county allows indoor woodstove fires as long as there is a spark arrester or screen; campground or developed recreational site fires within a fire ring and grate; petroleum-fueled stoves; lanterns; and heating devices.

The White River National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Glenwood Springs field office eased, but did not lift, fire bans last week.

Campfires are now allowed in developed campgrounds and picnic areas, but other restrictions remain in place.

New federal fire restrictions allow the use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns and heating devices. Wood stoves with a spark arrester, often called sheepherder stoves, are also allowed.

Smoking is allowed only within enclosed vehicles or buildings, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area barren or cleared of all flammable material at least three feet in diameter.

Welding is restricted by the Forest Service, but can be done with a permit. But on BLM land, acetylene torches can be used as long as the surrounding area is completely cleared for 10 feet.

Those who plan to use a chain saw need a spark arrester, a fire extinguisher and a shovel.

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