Garfield County considers fireworks ban, as early May weather warmer than normal
COVID-19 impacts on firefighting capabilities also factor in
With spring temperatures rising and ongoing efforts to keep from stretching emergency resources during the coronavirus pandemic, Garfield County is looking to get ahead of the coming wildfire season by banning fireworks use.
Normally this time of year the county commissioners will consider a request from emergency officials to impose a ban on fireworks use in unincorporated parts of the county, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario advised commissioners during their regular Monday meeting.
The measure is aimed at being ahead of the game when the fire danger typically increases come June, and not having to wait out the public noticing period to impose a ban when the danger rises, he said.
Commissioners agreed to formally consider imposing a year-long ban on personal fireworks use later this month. Under state law, the period from May 31 until July 5 is excluded to potentially allow for fireworks during the 4th of July holiday, Vallario and county emergency management officials explained.
However, if the fire danger warrants, the commissioners could immediately enact a ban during that period of time, as well, they said.
Looking ahead, given the relatively dry spring and above-normal temperatures, high fire danger is now predicted during the summer months.
“The Sheriff’s Emergency Manager (Chris Bornholdt) has raised concerns about the availability of emergency response resources, and potential for high fire danger during the summer of 2020,” according to a staff memo to the commissioners for the Monday meeting.
“Emergency response agencies throughout the county, including fire departments, are devoting most of their personnel and resources to assist with the COVID-19 crisis for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Emergency Manager has reviewed predictions from various national agencies, and those predictions indicate high fire danger this coming summer.”
Garfield and neighboring counties have already imposed Stage 1 fire restrictions, prohibiting open burning and campfires outside of developed areas.
“Fires caused by the use of fireworks will unnecessarily increase the burden on emergency response agencies already stressed by the ongoing pandemic,” the staff memo goes on to state. “As a result, public health, safety and welfare are put at greater risk this year if the public is allowed to use fireworks. Due to the ongoing concerns for increased fire danger and lack of resources, a ban on the use of fireworks is appropriate.”
The ban, if ultimately approved by the commissioners, would apply to the personal use of fireworks, but not the commercial sale or possession of otherwise legal fireworks in the unincorporated parts of the county. The ban would not apply to public fireworks displays, as long as proper safety measures are in place.
The proposed ban is likely to come before the county commissioners for formal adoption on May 18. The county would then assess the fire danger after May 31 to determine whether to keep the ban in place through the July 4th stretch. Commissioners could also choose to lift the ban if the fire danger subsides in the fall.
Does it seem a bit warm to you?
If the first week of May so far seems a little warmer than usual and spring smells just a bit ahead of schedule, consider yourself perceptive.
According to Tom Renwick, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, temperatures have been above normal since last week.
Grand Junction tied its record high one day last week, and the Glenwood Springs area has been seeing temperatures a good 5-7 degrees above normal, he said.
After an extra warm day Saturday when the temperature topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, temperatures dropped again into the normal range of 73-74 degrees on Sunday and Monday. But Wednesday, the temperature is again expected to top 82, according to the latest NWS forecast.
“That does happen in the spring, where we get a stronger area of high pressure that sets up in the right spot and we have those warmer winds from the south,” Renwick said.
Then it will switch for a couple of days and the prevailing cooler winds will come from the north, he said.
The NWS forecast for the week in the Glenwood Springs area calls for a low tonight around 35 degrees, after overnight temperatures were in the 40s Sunday night into Monday. Daytime highs are expected to be 76 on Tuesday and 82 on Wednesday, falling again to 76 on Thursday and Friday, and then back into the 80s on the weekend.
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Glenwood Springs residents will see their water usage rates go up beginning June 1.