Editorial: Take the ‘when’ out of fire threat, ban fireworks sales
June 10, 2018
Every year that the fire danger builds to extreme, you'll hear comments to the effect that it's not a matter of "if" but "when" Garfield County's turn will come for a big wildfire to break out.
Fortunately, the last time the dreaded combination of low snowpack and persistent dry weather into late spring resulted in conditions similar to what we're experiencing now, timely rains helped ensure the "when" never really came.
That was 2012. Glenwood Springs did come very close that season when some juveniles playing with sparklers touched off a fire along the riverbank below Glenwood Park, nearly reaching some homes.
Drought conditions persisted in 2013, leading to extra precautionary measures, including a Garfield County ban on fireworks use, as well as sales. That was the same year a lightning-caused fire in late August forced evacuations and burned several hundred acres in the Red Canyon area.
There's no controlling natural fire starters, namely lightning, of course. But we can control the threat of human-caused fires through reasonable measures, and some personal responsibility when we're out recreating in high fire danger years.
Today, Garfield County commissioners will again be considering seasonal restrictions on the use of otherwise legal fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county. As presented, though, the proposed ordinance does not extend to sales, as the 2013 measure did.
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We urge the commissioners to take that next step as a reasonable measure amid the ever-growing fire danger, just as they did five years ago.
Already, the tent has been pitched and the American flags have been raised at the Cattle Creek site between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale where a vendor plans to sell all the stuff that's legal in Colorado when it comes to fireworks. As a reminder, that's anything that doesn't leave the ground or explode, such as fountains and sparklers.
But, as that 2012 incident proved, even the legal stuff can be dangerous when the fire danger is as bad as it is now.
Banning both fireworks use and sales is in line with imposing bans on open burning and other fire restrictions, as Garfield and other neighboring counties, as well as the Bureau of Land Management have done.
The signs are there that we're potentially in for a long fire season. May 2018 was one of the driest on record in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the Western Slope.
The 416 Fire burning on some 26 square miles north of Durango is an example of just how dry it is in that part of the state. And northwest Colorado isn't much better off, as evidenced by a fire that started north of Wolcott over the weekend and quickly spread in hot, dry, windy conditions.
On Sunday, Grand Valley firefighters quickly jumped on a fire that started along Interstate 70 east of Parachute, and kept it from spreading.
Many of those roadside fires are caused by careless smokers who stupidly flick ashes or lit cigarette butts out their vehicle windows, unaware of the danger they may be leaving in their wake.
Glenwood Springs has already made the decision not to have a Fourth of July fireworks display, if only to send a message that setting off any kind of pyrotechnics during the current conditions is simply wrong. Instead, the city is planning a laser light show.
Though there are some indications based on climate models that Western Colorado and Eastern Utah could see an earlier-than-usual summer monsoon season, these next couple of weeks and into the first part of July are crucial for limiting the potential for human-caused fires.
Dry lightning storms can occur any time, increasing the fire threat, and we can only control what we have control over.
Please, please, please, don't be careless with campfires, safety chains, barbecue grills, shooting sports, smoking, fireworks or any means humans wield that can cause a fire to break out. Better yet, just don't light a flame at all if you don't absolutely have to.