Eagle County under red flag warning, triggering fire restrictions
A prolonged dry spell coupled with low humidity, strong winds and warm temperatures lead to warning
EAGLE COUNTY — A red flag fire warning was issued Friday for areas of Eagle County below 7,500 feet in elevation. That means Stage 1 fire restrictions were immediately imposed for all areas of unincorporated Eagle County, except federally-managed lands.
The warning, the first of the season, is the result of a prolonged dry spell following a cool, wet spring and early summer.
Red flag warnings are issued by the National Weather Service. The warnings indicate that weather conditions — primarily low humidity, strong winds and warm temperatures — are prime to prompt the fast spread of wildfires. Given the weather forecast, the red flag warning could be extended into the weekend.
Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek Friday said the red flag warning could extend into the weekend. Stage 1 restrictions will be in effect as long as the red flag warning lasts.
Eagle County earlier this year passed an ordinance that automatically triggers fire restrictions in unincorporated Eagle County whenever the red flag warning is issued.
Eagle County’s geography, which ranges from high alpine forest to high desert, can be confusing when it comes to fire danger. For instance, while much of the county is susceptible to wildfire right now, Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak said grasses in town haven’t yet dried enough to present a significant fire danger.
With the new county regulations, van Beek said he believes it may ultimately be easier to explain fire restrictions to the public. Much of that information is on the ecemergency.org website, under the “Eagle County Fire Restrictions” tab. That page provides information on what is, and isn’t permitted, under Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire restrictions, and also provides a map indicating where those restrictions are in effect.
“We’re trying to prevent confusion,” van Beek said. “Our goal is to communicate those restrictions.”
If deputies see violations of the restrictions, van Beek said officers will focus on education first before issuing tickets.
The county restrictions apply only to unincorporated Eagle County, but van Beek said local towns and other agencies have been cooperative.
Still, Friday’s restrictions weren’t in effect in Vail or in the town of Gypsum.
But local fire departments are ready to help other agencies if needed.
Novak noted that his team is always prepared for emergencies. But, he added, increased fire danger in the county prompts what he called a “lean forward” level of preparedness. That means crews are ready to assist other agencies in case of wildfires.
For instance, if local fire departments have scheduled joint training that would put a number of trucks and crews in one place, that training would be canceled so crews can be spread across the valley.
• All personal use of fireworks is prohibited.
• Any fire not within a permanently constructed fire pit, ring, or grate is prohibited on public or private land.
• Fires are prohibited within portable devices (chimineas, grills and tiki torches with no shut-off valve) on undeveloped lands.
• Smoking outdoors is prohibited in an area that is not cleared of all combustible materials.
• No explosive targets or incendiary (tracer) rounds are allowed. These are never allowed on federal lands.
• Using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark-arresting device is prohibited.
• Welding or operating acetylene or other torches with an open flame is prohibited in an area that is not cleared of at least 10 feet in diameter and the user is not in possession of a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher.
• Professional fireworks displays.
• Fires contained within a permanently constructed fire pit, ring or grate on private land; or within a fee-charged public recreational site, such as campgrounds.
• Fires contained within liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices on public or private land.
• Smoking in an enclosed vehicle, building, developed recreation site, or in an area that is cleared of all combustible materials.
• Shooting or discharging firearms on private land or at a public shooting range.
• Using internal or external combustion engines with a spark-arresting device.
• Welding or operating acetylene or other torches with an open flame in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter and in possession of a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher.
For more information, go to the “Eagle County Fire Restrictions Info” tab at http://www.ecemergency.org.
For more information about fire restrictions on federal lands, log on to https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r2/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5370444
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.