Eagle County Commissioners likely to change the current fire restriction ordinance
Changes are mostly minor, but violators will face civil, not criminal penalties
Eagle County is set to make some changes to its fire restriction ordinance, but the changes are relatively small.
The Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance making those changes. That first ordinance, adopted in 2019, includes provisions for moving the county to Stage 1 fire restrictions whenever the National Weather Service posts a red flag fire weather warning. If the county is already under fire restrictions, the ordinance automatically moves the county to the next restriction level. Those restrictions apply to areas within unincorporated Eagle County.
- Ordinance violations will be “civil infractions,” without criminal penalties.
- Restitution is removed.
- Criminal penalties and liability can be covered by other laws.
- Fines will be unchanged.
Stage 1 fire restrictions include:
- Campfires are allowed only in designated fire grates in developed campgrounds. Fire pans and rock campfire rings aren’t acceptable.
- No fires of any type, including charcoal, outside of developed areas.
- No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, in a developed recreation site or in an area free of vegetation.
- No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets or incendiary — tracer — ammunition.
- No operation of any internal combustion engine without a properly installed spark arresting device.
The existing ordinance also includes criminal penalties and restitution for violators.
Assistant County Attorney Matt Peterson Monday told the Eagle County Commissioners that the new ordinance comes from adjustments to state law made since the first ordinance was passed. Those bills have modified the penalties for violators and have changed a violation from a class 2 petty offense to a civil infraction. That change includes doing away with fines and restitution. But, Peterson said, other charges may come from violations, and those charges do carry criminal penalties and possible restitution.
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The new ordinance also includes fire restriction exceptions for agricultural burns and pre-approved exemptions for outdoor construction including welding.
Those construction permits must be issued in advance, by local fire protection districts. And, Peterson noted, a county can’t prohibit agricultural burning. But farmers and ranchers must follow state law.
The new ordinance carries notice provisions that will put fire restriction information on the county’s website.
The new ordinance also requires the county sheriff — the county’s fire marshal — to communicate with fire districts and neighboring local governments. Peterson noted that Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek uses established lines of communication for that purpose.
County ordinances require two readings, and must be open for public comment in advance of a commissioners’ meeting.
Peterson noted that notice of the ordinance had been published in the Dec. 15 and Dec. 22 editions of the Eagle Valley Enterprise, but no public comment had been received prior to Tuesday’s hearing.
The second reading is set for Jan. 31, and Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said there will be more opportunities for public comment in advance of that hearing.