White River likely to ban all fires, even in campgrounds
White River National Forest officials will likely enact a rare and possibly unprecedented move of banning fires in grates and pits within campgrounds, Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle said yesterday.
Gov. Bill Owens has banned open fires throughout the state, and the U.S. Forest Service has banned fires outside of campgrounds. However, the Forest Service has allowed continued use of fires in approved settings in campgrounds.
That is about to change due to the extremely dry conditions.
The 75,000-acre Hayman fire southwest of Denver was started by a campfire, although that was an illegal one. Bans usually haven’t affected campgrounds because they are regarded as safer areas.
Ketelle said an order will probably be issued that bans all fires, even in campgrounds, by the end of this week. If campers don’t honor the fire ban, the Forest Service would have to consider shutting off public access to the 2.3-million-acre forest, she said.
The Pike-San Isabel National Forest, where the Hayman fire is located, was closed to the public Monday.
Ketelle stressed that she would want to see how effective a fire ban is before restricting the public from public lands.
If a fire ban is put in place in campgrounds it would be the first time in at least 18 years, according to Jim Stark, who has worked in the Aspen district for that long. “This would be a big move,” he said.
Bans enacted since 1984 have affected only open fires in the backcountry and wilderness, Stark said. It’s possible that the dry year of 1980, which produced the Weller Lake fire, forced a fire ban throughout the district, he said.
Fire-fighting experts said yesterday that Colorado is experiencing unprecedented conditions due to the drought.
“We’ve never seen these conditions, and our fathers have probably never seen these conditions,” said Steve Hart, incident commander for the federal agencies fighting the Coal Seam fire at West Glenwood Springs.
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