Eagle County moving to Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday
Move comes a day after small fires broke out along I-70
With more hot, dry weather on the way, Eagle County is moving to Stage 1 fire restrictions starting Friday at 12:01 a.m.
The decision, which came out of Tuesday’s weekly meeting among local and regional fire managers, comes just a day after a string of small fires broke out on the north side of Interstate 70 from Avon to Edwards.
White River National Forest managers are also making the move to Stage 1 restrictions starting Friday.
Monday’s spot fires shut down the interstate’s westbound lanes for more than an hour as crews worked the scene.
What sparked the small grass fires after 12:30 p.m. remains under investigation by the Colorado State Patrol. Tracy LeClair with the Eagle River Fire Protection District said Monday that it’s possible that a dragging chain or hot brakes on a semi-tractor-trailer sparked the dry grasses alongside the 5-mile stretch of the interstate.
Small fires closer to Edwards threatened homes in the Singletree subdivision.
Temperatures around western Colorado are smashing historic highs this week, and there isn’t much relief in sight in the long-term outlook for the summer, said Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
LeClair said numerous factors go into fire restrictions. It’s a science of evaluating the energy release components of all live and dead fuels to potential fire intensity combined with weather conditions.
Toward the end of the week, some isolated clouds may make an appearance in the mountains, but those clouds aren’t expected to bring any rain. There’s also a risk that some of those clouds could bring dry lightning, LeClair said.
The restrictions that will be implemented and remain in place until further notice are:
- Campfires are only allowed within designated fire grates in developed campgrounds such as a metal, in-ground containment structure. Fire pans and rock campfire rings are not acceptable.
- No fires of any type are allowed, including charcoal, outside of developed areas.
- No smoking is allowed except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area free of vegetation.
- Use of explosive materials is prohibited, including explosive targets.
- No welding or operation of an acetylene or other similar torch with an open flame, or any other spark producing device, is prohibited, 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.
Looking at the current drought conditions for Eagle County, only a small sliver representing the southeast corner of the county is in severe drought, while the largest swath — which includes Vail all the way down to Eagle — is in extreme drought. Gypsum and the rest of the western end of the county are in exceptional drought conditions, the highest classification on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Exceptional drought is still very much alive and well in the West,” Charnick said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like any sort of major system is on the horizon.”
The move to Stage 1 restrictions also means that when the county issues a red-flag warning, it automatically moves restrictions up to the next level. More in-depth information regarding the fire restrictions in Eagle County can be located at ECEmergency.org.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is urging people living in and near fire-prone areas to be prepared for the worst by protecting their property through clearing brush and removing dead branches, along with many other steps that are outlined at FireWise.org. In addition, residents should prepare for emergency evacuation plans and make sure they have their most valuable and important possessions prepared in the event they are required to immediately leave the area.
To receive real-time emergency text or email notifications, subscribe to EC alerts at ECalert.org.