Stage 2 fire restrictions in place for Eagle County; fireworks shows canceled | VailDaily.com

Stage 2 fire restrictions in place for Eagle County; fireworks shows canceled

The Bocco fire was ignited Satuday, June 9, near Wolcott. Due to high wildfire danger, Llcal and federal fire officials on Friday, June 29, imposed Stage 2 fire restrictions on all private and public lands in Eagle County.

EAGLE COUNTY — Warm, windy and dry conditions this week have prompted local and federal officials to impose Stage 2 fire restrictions across all private and public lands in Eagle County. The rising fire danger has also led to the cancellation of all community fireworks displays in the county.

As late as Wednesday, June 27, there was cautious optimism that the shows could go on. But late in the day on Thursday, June 28, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management imposed Stage 2 restrictions on public land throughout Eagle County. Local officials quickly followed suit. A morning of discussion on Friday, June 29, led to the cancellation of the community shows in Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek and Gypsum.

'Safety and security'

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said it's unusual for federal officials to act before local officials, given that much of the public land in the county is at higher elevations and, usually, more resistant to fire.

“We didn’t reach this decision easily, but it was one that had to do with safety and security.”James van BeekEagle County Sheriff

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"We didn't reach this decision easily, but it was one that had to do with safety and security," van Beek said, adding that local fire crews are currently working on fires outside the county.

As of Friday morning, there were fires burning near Ute Pass northeast of Silverthorne and near Grand Lake. Another small fire is burning up Sweetwater Creek in western Eagle County.

While the county has been under Stage 1 restrictions for a few weeks, Stage 2 restrictions ban just about anything that will make a spark on public or private land.

Stage 2 restrictions go beyond campfires and include items such as charcoal grills and tiki torches. All of the county's shooting ranges are shut down, too, given that a bullet ricochet can create a fire-starting spark.

Despite the cancellation of fireworks shows, there's still plenty going on in the valley over the Fourth of July holiday.

The holiday will kick off Tuesday, July 3, with Avon's Salute to the USA. While a large fireworks show is usually the grand finale of that celebration, Avon Mayor Jennie Fancher said there will still be plenty going on in Nottingham Park.

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra will perform, and other bands will also play. There will also be food vendors on hand.

"At least we'll have great music and great food," Fancher said. "Hopefully people will come out and have a good time."

The city of Aspen announced Friday that it will hold a laser light show instead of a fireworks display.

Fancher said a similar show in Avon would be "great, but I don't know what's possible at this point."

In Vail, the annual Vail America Days celebration will continue on Wednesday, July 4, with the parade, afternoon concert and other events.

Don't use your own

Even when the community fireworks shows were set to go on, officials were urging residents and visitors to put away their private fireworks.

On the law enforcement front, police will be looking closely for anyone using private fireworks, even those that are usually legal in the state. In Colorado, anything that flies or explodes has been illegal for decades.

In a release, the Eagle Police Department and the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District stated that police and fire officials will investigate calls about personal fireworks and take "necessary action" with people caught using them.

The Eagle County Sheriff's Office will also be on the lookout for personal fireworks use, including in Gypsum and Minturn, which contract for police services.

The story is the same in Vail, where Police Chief Dwight Henninger said that department will have all available officers out in both the resort areas and patrolling for illegal fireworks.

"This is not the year to be doing that," Henninger said of personal fireworks.

Avon Police Chief Greg Daly echoed those remarks.

"We want everyone to have a safe, enjoyable celebration," Daly said. "But we're going to be even more sensitive to fire concerns."

Daly said attention to potential fireworks hazards is "more amplified" than in normal years.

Daly noted that besides tickets for illegal fireworks use, anyone found to have started a wildland fire could face potentially huge financial liabilities. Daily said people who start fires can be financially liable for property. They can also be held liable for the costs of fighting a wildland fire.

"There's a massive cost, both in finance and human safety — firefighters and residents," Daly said. "I hope people take a second to think about that."

While the community shows have been canceled, the fireworks have been paid for and delivered. Those fireworks will remain in storage until they can be used.

Following the very dry winter and spring of 2011-2012, Avon called off its Salute to the USA display and instead used the fireworks in a mid-winter show.

Something like that may be possible in the coming winter, Fancher said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

The rules

According to a Friday, June 29, news release from White River National Forest headquarters in Glenwood Springs, here’s what’s banned under Stage 2 fire restrictions:

• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire, charcoal grill, coal, wood-burning stove or sheepherders stove, including in developed camp and picnic grounds. Devices with shut-off valves using pressurized liquid or gas are exempted;

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building;

• Using an explosive including but not limited to fuses or blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets and tracers or incendiary ammunition;

• Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrestor and without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and a round-point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches that is readily available for use;

• Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame, except with a current permit, contract or letter of authorization;

• Use of motor vehicles off National Forest system roads, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and except for parking overnight in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

Restrictions in Eagle County also apply to private lands. That means no charcoal grills. Also: All shooting ranges in the county are closed until further notice.

A comprehensive listing of fire restrictions throughout the state and other fire related emergency information can be found online at http://www.coemergency.com. Information on current wildfires in Colorado and around the country is available at http://www.inciweb.org.

Local information can be found on Eagle County’s website.