Given everything else we’ve had to deal with in 2020, the last thing Eagle County needs right now is a wildfire.
And, yet, during the last few weeks, as it has gotten hotter, and drier, and winds have picked up, reports of unattended fires on public lands continue to trickle in.
The Vail Fire Department’s wildland fire specialist told the Vail Daily this week that the number of unattended fires reported around the area is about normal for a summer.
But don’t confuse normal with acceptable.
“There shouldn’t be any,” Paul Cada said.
In fact, there shouldn’t be any fires, period, on public lands right now, unless you purchased a campsite and you’re having your campfire in established campgrounds.
With Eagle County in Stage 1 fire restrictions, campfires are banned everywhere else.
That obviously isn’t happening. A massive, smoldering stump over the weekend drew crews from three local fire agencies up Tigiwon Road outside of Minturn, while a Gypsum resident found another deserted, illegal campfire, still smoldering, while riding the Spring Creek and Easy Rider trails in Gypsum. It’s the third illegal fire — either smoldering or still burning — that this resident said he’s found this year.
Yes, the massive amount of trash — which filled up a whole truck bed — left behind in Gypsum by what appears to be local teenagers is frustrating and disappointing, but the fact that a fire was left unattended is more troubling.
Just imagine if a hot ember was picked up by the wind and set off a wildfire like the one that raged in the Basalt area in 2018 when conditions were nearly identical to right now.
That would be a life-altering event for those responsible for starting the blaze.
Just ask Richard Miller and Allison Marcus, who were convicted of starting the Lake Christine Fire, which destroyed three homes, burned more than 12,500 acres, killed animals and impacted thousands of Roaring Fork Valley residents due to evacuations and months-long poor air quality.
Each received a sentence of 45 days in jail, 1,500 hours of use public service, $100,000 in restitution and five years of probation. They’ll carry the destruction they caused with them for the rest of their lives.
This isn’t about shaming some kids for tossing back a few White Claws in the woods. It’s more serious than that. Fire safety starts with fire education, and right now, we need to do better as a community.
Or, as another local fire official told the Vail Daily this week, “We have to rely on people doing the right thing, and it seems like people aren’t getting the message.”
Apparently not, so here’s the message again. Under current Stage 1 restrictions:
- Campfires are only allowed within designated fire grates in developed campgrounds in a metal, in-ground containment structure. Fire pans and rock campfire rings are not acceptable).
Fires of any type, including charcoal, are prohibited outside of developed areas.
- Smoking isn’t permitted except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area free of vegetation.
Explosive materials, including explosive targets, are prohibited.
- Fireworks are always prohibited on BLM, National Forest, and National Park Service lands.
Parents, talk to your kids about fire safety and fire danger. Residents and visitors, please report illegal campfires when you see them.
And, please, please be smart when it comes to recreating on our beloved public lands.
We’ve got to do better. Otherwise, the consequences could be disastrous.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.