Fireworks banned in unincorporated parts of Garfield County |

Fireworks banned in unincorporated parts of Garfield County

Alex Zorn

In the wake of wildfires burning across Western Colorado, including one in Eagle County where more than 400 acres have gone up in smoke in less than 72 hours, the Garfield County commissioners on Monday elected to be proactive and play it safe.

In a short hearing, commissioners passed an ordinance banning the use of fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county until the fire danger subsides. The ban could stay in effect until the end of the year, if need be.

Persons caught using fireworks will have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation, which can be reduced to $300 if he or she acknowledges their guilt and pays the fine before the trial date, according to the ordinance.

The ban does not extend to the sale of legal fireworks, but it does mean that they cannot be used in unincorporated parts of the county, including Battlement Mesa. Rifle City Council last week also elected to ban the use of fireworks in city limits, and other municipalities in the county may follow suit.

“It is really dangerous out there right now,” County Commissioner John Martin said. “It’s universally known that it is an extreme fire danger right now.”

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky called the decision “very prudent.”

He said he’s rarely seen conditions this bad in his time as a Garfield County resident.

Over the weekend, Interstate 70 and Highway 6 were closed for about two hours near Rulison due to a small brush fire. Grand Valley Fire District crews were able to contain the blaze quickly, and highway officials were able to reopen one lane westbound in short order.

“We had seven fires this past weekend, and one was fairly large near the interstate,” Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt said of the Sunday fire. “I think this fireworks ban is a good thing to prevent future starts that may cause a large wildfire.”

The county’s ban does not affect fireworks displays planned by municipalities or fireworks use in towns within the county.

In Eagle County, as of Sunday, the Bocco Fire north of Wolcott has grown to more than 415 acres since it started near the Wolcott gun range mid-afternoon Saturday, according to reports in the Vail Daily.

As of Friday, there were no local fire restrictions in Eagle or neighboring Pitkin County, though Garfield County and the area Bureau of Land Management have enacted Stage 1 fire restrictions. The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” fire weather warning on Sunday, though Monday’s conditions were not as severe.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo told the Aspen Times on Friday that there’s been no official word on Aspen’s firework show, though he “assumed there will be no fireworks.” Glenwood Springs has canceled its July 4th fireworks show in favor of a laser light show.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of mid-May snowpack in the Roaring Fork Valley was approximately 64 percent of normal, with little chance to improve significantly, states information presented to the Garfield commissioners on Monday.

The Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers flow peaks were expected before the end of May, due to low snowpack and warmer than normal conditions. Last year, the Colorado River experienced peak flow on June 10, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center indicates a 50 percent probability of above normal temperatures, and a 33 to 43 percent probability of below normal precipitation for May, June and July.

The foliage period is also expected to be shorter this year, so fine fuels such as grasses will be more susceptible to early ignition.

According to local readings taken on May 7, the moisture content of 1,000-hour fuel, wood that is 3 inches to 8 inches in diameter, is 8 percent near the Rifle-Garfield County Airport. Measurements taken in Middle Rifle Creek indicate Pinyon and Juniper fuel moister ranged between 75 to 79 percent, indicating low moisture content percentages.

As of June 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor classifies western Garfield County as D2 or severe drought with eastern Garfield County ranging from D1 (moderate drought) to D0 (abnormally dry).

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