Persistent dry conditions bring return of Garfield County fire restrictions |

Persistent dry conditions bring return of Garfield County fire restrictions

A goat munches away on dead grass and leaves at Veltus Park as part of the city of Glenwood Springs' fire mitigation effort on the hillside near the bank of the Roaring Fork River.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Stage 1 fire restrictions resume

• Campfires are allowed within designated fire grates or in-ground containment structures in developed campgrounds. Fire pans and rock campfire rings are not allowed.

• No fires of any type, including charcoal, outside of developed areas. Backyard charcoal grills are permissible under Stage 1 restrictions. Within town limits, fire pits with screens that prevent sparks from dispersing are allowed, as are charcoal and gas grills and smokers.

• No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area that’s free of vegetation.

• No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets or tracer rounds/exploding bullets, etc. The discharge of weapons with normal ammunition, used for hunting and target practice is permissible.

• No welding or operation of acetylene or other similar torch with open flame or any spark emitting operation, (cutting, grinding etc.) except in an area that has been cleared of vegetation.

• No operation of any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed and in working order.

Fire restrictions are being reinstated throughout Garfield County this weekend, as bone-dry conditions persist and precipitation has once again become scarce headed into autumn, and with the height of hunting season approaching.

All six Garfield County municipalities and unincorporated private and state lands within the county will return to Stage 1 fire restrictions today, and Saturday in the case of Glenwood Springs.

The White River National Forest will also decide Friday whether to follow suit and put fire restrictions in place.

“Based on current fuel conditions and lack of moisture, the White River National Forest is strongly considering entering back into fire restrictions,” Kate Jerman, public information officer for the WRNF, said on Thursday.

“With a lower than normal snowpack this past winter, recent hot and dry weather has created high fire danger at elevations below about 9,000 feet.”— Garfield County Sheriff’s Office

The dry conditions contributed to a string of brush fires along Interstate 70 west of Parachute on Thursday afternoon, reportedly touched off by a passing semi-trailer truck that was kicking off sparks into the dry grass. I-70 was closed for a brief time, and down to one lane for part of the afternoon.

Neighboring Eagle and Pitkin counties are also expected to announce their decisions regarding new fire bans Friday.

While the first-stage fire restrictions will go into place Friday for most of Garfield County, Glenwood Springs will wait until Saturday due to public noticing requirements, Glenwood Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said.

“Two weeks ago we were down below the thresholds for fuel moistures, and with cooler nights and some rain we were able to lift the restrictions,” Tillotson said of the decision to lift the fire bans after they had been in place most of the summer.

“That little bit of rain dried up pretty fast, and we have stayed warm and dry since then,” he said. “Now we’re back up above those thresholds, and there’s not appreciable moisture in the forecast for the next 10 days.”

Tillotson acknowledged the fire restrictions come as many hunters are arriving and already up in the woods for elk and deer archery season, which continues through this weekend. The first rifle seasons don’t begin until October.

If the Forest Service follows suit, they will need to know that campfires are allowed only within developed campgrounds in designated pits with grates. Open fires in dispersed camping sites will not be allowed.

“Fire managers base decisions about fire restrictions on specific moisture measurements in vegetation and other risk factors,” according to a Thursday news release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. “With a lower than normal snowpack this past winter, recent hot and dry weather has created high fire danger at elevations below about 9,000 feet.”

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