Stage 1 fire restrictions announced for entire White River National Forest
What fire restrictions mean
Because it has been so hot, dry and windy for so long, Eagle County is under Stage 1 fire restrictions. That means:
• Campfires are only allowed within designated fire grates in developed campgrounds (metal, in-ground containment structure; fire pans and rock campfire rings are not acceptable).
• No fires of any type, including charcoal, outside of developed areas.
• No smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area free of vegetation.
• No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets.
• No welding or operation of an acetylene or other similar torch with open flame, or any other spark-producing device, except from 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.
• Fireworks are always prohibited on Bureau of Land Management, National Forest and National Park Service lands.
If you violate federal fire restrictions, you could be fined up to $100,000 and a year in prison. If you start a wildfire, you could be ordered to pay the cost of fire suppression.
Source: Eagle County Sheriff’s Office
EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek restricted open burning in all areas outside town boundaries in a Thursday morning announcement.
Hours later, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service announced fire restrictions for the entire White River National Forest. The BLM said the restrictions apply to Forest Service and BLM-administered land, unincorporated land and private land in Summit, Eagle and Rio Blanco counties. Fire restrictions are already in effect in Mesa, Garfield and Pitkin counties.
Fire managers base decisions about fire restrictions on specific moisture measurements in vegetation and other risk factors, such as predicted weather and amount of current fire activity, the BLM said in a press release.
Thursday morning’s announcement came on the heels of weeks of dry, windy weather and a string of wildfires across the West, including the Gutzler fire in remote northern Eagle County. Smoke from that fire prompted state health officials to issue an air-quality/smoke warning on Wednesday.
That Gutzler fire is one of nine new fires that joined 34 large active fires across the Western United States, said the U.S. Forest Service. Those nine fires have burned more than 224,000 acres.
So far in 2017, more than 30,000 fires have burned more than 3 million acres in the United States, according to a Natural Resource Conservation Service report.
That report says Western Colorado has received almost none of the average precipitation expected this time of year.
“Across the West, generally hot and dry conditions prevailed,” said David Simeral, with the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Western Regional Climate Center.
Fires around the region
The Gutzler fire is one of several burning around Western Colorado.
The Hogback Fire near Newcastle is considered largely contained, reported the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
In Routt County, the Mill Creek fire has grown to more than 270 acres. The Mill Creek fire started Saturday on private property, but has since spread to public land.
Lightning sparked the East Rim fire on Saturday, seven miles north of Dove Creek, near Durango.
Gutzler fire growing
The Gutzler fire grew to 1,233 acres by Thursday afternoon, said Aaron Mayville, White River National Forest district ranger.
“It’s tracking within the indirect suppression strategy we established,” Mayville
Fire fighters created lines by connecting irrigated meadows and aspen groves, with the area’s natural topography. The fire reached those lines Thursday afternoon, and fire fighters will now work to keep it within those lines, Mayville said.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. We still have some work to keep it within those lines,” Mayville said.
The fire is still burning mostly dead and downed beetle-killed timber, Mayville said.
“It’s going to be with us for a while,” Mayville said.
You live in a forest
Homes in or near forested areas are classified as wildland-urban interface areas and are at risk in any wildfire event, van Beek said.
“When you build or buy a home in one of the (wildland-urban interface) areas, you have accepted the fact that these areas may have poor access, dense vegetation, steep slopes and poor or no water supply for fire suppression. To prevent a tragedy, you need to be aware of wildfire hazards and what to do when a wildfire occurs in your area,” van Beek said in a press release.
If you live in one of these areas, then you should create a defensible space of at least 30 feet around your home, van Beek said.
Do that by:
• Trimming branches,
• Thinning tree and brush cover,
• Removing dead limbs and other litter,
• Maintaining an irrigated greenbelt,
• Mowing dry grasses and weeds,
• Cleaning your roof and gutters and
• Pruning branches to 10 feet above the ground.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
It would be really hard to spark a wildfire anywhere near Vail Mountain or Beaver Creek right now. Still, unattended campfires will always draw attention.