Dry weather prompts local, federal officials to put Eagle County back under fire restrictions, Stage 1 | VailDaily.com

Dry weather prompts local, federal officials to put Eagle County back under fire restrictions, Stage 1

Eagle County is back under Stage 1 fire restrictions for both private and public land. Dry weather with no significant moisture in the forecast prompted local and federal officials to make the move, effective noon Friday, Sept. 21. Gypsum and Vail will not be implementing Stage I restrictions, van Beek said.

EAGLE COUNTY — It's dry and likely to stay that way, and that's why we're back under fire restrictions.

Local and federal officials re-imposed Stage 1 fire restrictions at noon on Friday, Sept. 21. Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit all open burning on private and public land.

"Due to unusually dry conditions, there is an increased risk for wildfires throughout Colorado. As a result, Eagle County will implement Stage 1 fire restrictions for the second time this summer," said Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, the county's lead fire official.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land management also put the land they manage back under Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday, said Rick Truex, acting district ranger for the Eagle Holy Cross Ranger District.

“Weather predictions over the next few weeks are not favorable for moisture, so we need to do what we can to take preventative action until moisture arrives.”Scott FitzwilliamsForest supervisorWhite River National Forest

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The town of Avon, as well as Garfield, Summit and Pitkin counties, have also imposed fire restrictions. Gypsum and Vail will not be implementing Stage 1 restrictions, van Beek said.

On Tuesday, June 12, local, state and federal officials put Eagle County under Stage 1 fire restrictions after the dry spring enabled a few fires to expand quickly. Officials bumped the county up to Stage 2 restrictions on Friday, June 29, leading to the cancellation of all Fourth of July community fireworks displays in the county. After easing back to Stage 1 again on Friday, Aug. 31, and eliminating all fire restrictions on Friday, Sept. 7, fire officials have made the decision to move back to Stage 1.

Cooling trend is little help

Despite a slight cooling trend this week, the area has received little to no consistent moisture over the past few weeks, said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest.

Weather forecasts indicate that little to no moisture will fall over the area for up to the next 10 days. That lack of precipitation, coupled with high temperatures, has significantly increased the potential for wildfire, Fitzwilliams said.

Fuel moisture is at a record low, and the risk for human-caused fire starts is high, Fitzwilliams said, and it won't get better or wetter in the immediate future.

"Weather predictions over the next few weeks are not favorable for moisture, so we need to do what we can to take preventative action until moisture arrives," Fitzwilliams said.

Fire managers base decisions about fire restrictions on specific moisture measurements in vegetation and other risk factors such as predicted weather and the amount of current fire activity, Fitzwilliams said.

Fire district supports it

The Eagle River Fire Protection District supports the decision as we enter the year's second fire season, said Tracy LeClair, Eagle River Fire community risk manager.

"Grasses are curing out and trees/shrubs are losing their leaves, so fuels are very receptive to fire," LeClair said. "We've had a couple of small human-caused fires in the area."

Fire restrictions are based on measureable scientific categories, LeClair explained.

• Energy Release Components are above the 95th percentile.

• 1,000-hour fuel moistures are below 5 percent.

The area has been under red flag warnings several days in the past few weeks, indicating that critical fire conditions are expected, LeClair said.

"Given the active fire season we experienced this year, I believe we would rather err on the side of caution, and given the comments I've seen on social media, the public appears to agree," LeClair said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

What’s restricted?

• Campfires are allowed only in designated fire grates in developed campgrounds.

• No fires of any type are allowed outside of developed areas.

• No smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle or building.

• No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets.

• No welding except in areas cleared of vegetation.

• No use of internal combustion engines without working spark arresters.

For more information, go to the website of the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit.

Source: Eagle County Sheriff’s Office