Pitkin County moving to Stage 1 fire restrictions as dry, hot weather continues
New rules start Wednesday, more expected from other area agencies
Pitikin County is heightening its fire concerns, and starting Wednesday Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.
The restrictions mean no campfires in undeveloped sites, no outdoor smoking and no fireworks and cover all state, public, private, incorporated and unincorporated lands within Pitkin County, according to the Sheriff’s Office news release.
“Land management officials from the U.S. Forest Service — White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management are planning to implement their own restrictions later in the week,” the release said.
Weather forecasters and fire officials are concerned about a hot and dry summer, meaning fire danger could continue to increase and tighter restrictions could be put in place. There were red flag warnings last week in western Colorado, and the forecast for this week is hot and dry in the Colorado mountains and Western Slope. Highs in Aspen are forecast for the upper 80s into the weekend and in the upper 90s in Glenwood Springs.
Excessive heat warnings are in place this week in the Grand Junction area, where highs will break records in the triple digits, the National Weather Service forecasts.
“Triple digits will continue across many lower elevations with record highs being met or exceeded during the coming week,” according to the NWS hazardous weather update Tuesday from the Grand Junction office. “Precipitation chances slowly start to increase Wednesday afternoon onward with afternoon storms mainly over the high terrain. Gusty winds and lightning appear the main concerns.”
The fire restrictions, per the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, apply to the following persons and activities:
A. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site, or improved site to include a fire ring/pit.
B. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, building, or area cleared of all combustible materials.
C. Operating or using an internal or external combustion engine without an approved spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order meeting either the USDA Forest Service Standards or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practices.
D. Use of any personal fireworks or explosive requiring fuses or blasting caps, including exploding targets, as defined by Colorado Revised Statute 12-28-101(8).
The local fire restrictions are expected to grow in the coming days.
Eagle County officials also announced Tuesday the county would go to Stage 1 restrictions starting Friday. The decision, made in a weekly Tuesday meeting among local and regional fire managers, comes just a day after a string of small fires broke out on the north side of Interstate 70 from Avon to Edwards.
The move to Stage 1 restrictions also means that when the county issues a red-flag warning, it automatically moves restrictions up to the next level.
Area firefighting agencies and emergency management officials were set to consider possible fire restrictions at the Tuesday meeting where the current fire conditions and available resources are to be discussed, Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said at Monday’s Garfield County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said in the news release he is hoping to reduce the likelihood of a human-caused fire with these new restrictions.
“One of the tools I have, as fire warden, is to implement fire restrictions, when the science supports it, to reduce the likelihood of a human-caused wildfire,” he said. “Since 90 percent of wildfires are human-caused the impacts of inaction on our part are far greater than the impact to our community and we must do everything we can to deter and prevent fires in Pitkin County.”
The fine for breaking the ban includes $500 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third and subsequent offense, in addition to any restitution, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
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