Eagle River Fire is suspending outdoor burning permits

This is a lousy time to burn slash piles, ditches

Eagle Valley Wildland’s fire mitigation teams have suspended prescribed burn operations due to warm, windy conditions.
Eagle River Fire Protection District/Courtesy photo

The Eagle River Fire Protection District usually stops issuing outdoor burning permits through the summer. The district this year is publicizing the fact.

Tracy LeClair, the community risk manager and public information officer for the district, said the April 16 Duck Pond Fire in Gypsum was part of the impetus for the move.

“We want to make sure people are in the know,” LeClair said, adding that our current stretch of warm, windy, dry weather makes it even more important to let people know about the burn permit ban.

In the Eagle River district, which covers the Eagle River Valley from the summit of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott, burn permits are usually issued to private property owners and homeowners’ associations, usually for work that leaves slash piles. The district won’t allow those piles to be burned unless there’s snow on the ground.

“We’re seeing more and more fires being driven by wind,” LeClair said. “Right now’s not the best time to be (burning).”

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Conditions have also led the Eagle Valley Wildland team to call off all prescribed burns until conditions permit. LeClair said the team is still working on hand-thinning and mechanical mitigation work in targeted areas.

While burn permits are suspended in the Eagle River district, the Gypsum Fire Protection District doesn’t share that policy. That district includes many, if not most, of the valley’s ranches.

Gypsum Fire Protection District Chief Justin Kirkland said most ranch land burning has already been done for the coming season. Much of that burning involves burning irrigation ditches to ensure water flows easily to fields. The best time to do that is before grasses start to green up in the spring.

Still, Kirkland said, the district encourages agricultural burning before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

Kirkland said the district is starting to get pretty green right now, adding that the fire danger at Dowd Junction is currently higher than it is in Gypsum.

The district isn’t currently restricting burn permits, but Kirkland said permits have restrictions printed on the back. Kirkland added that the district follows county protocols. That includes the regulation that whenever a red-flag fire weather warning is issued, the county automatically goes into Stage 1 fire restrictions. Those warnings are issued for conditions including wind, temperature and relative humidity.

Stage 1 restrictions ban outdoor fires not in established fire pits. The restrictions also ban outdoor fires in portable devices that don’t have a shutoff valve. Those devices include chimineas, charcoal grills and tiki torches. The restrictions also ban outdoor use of engines without spark-arresting devices. That restriction is aimed at chainsaws, ATVs, generators and similar devices.

Smoking and welding are also restricted.

Kirkland said his district is advising against controlled burns this week. LeClair noted that May is Wildfire Awareness Month.

“We’re encouraging everyone to do their part,” LeClair said. That includes residents hardening their homes against wildfire, and those spending time outdoors to stay aware of fire conditions and possible restrictions.

Given current conditions, LeClair said it’s likely we’ll see more red flag warnings and fire restrictions as we move into summer.

Four facts

Virtually all of Eagle County is currently in “moderate” drought.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is forecasting Colorado will have above-normal temperatures for June, July and August.

The center also predicts “equal chances” of above- and below-average precipitation for the period.

The Rocky Mountain Area 120 Day Significant Fire Potential Outlook is predicting “above normal” chances in most of Colorado for “significant wildland fire potential” in June.

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