Fire bans lifted after jittery summer |

Fire bans lifted after jittery summer

Matt Zalaznick

Though the Vail Valley escaped a desperately dry summer without a major wildfire, the risk of a blaze breaking out in the county was no less severe than it was in the more famously scorched parts of Colorado.

“We’re back to a more normal type of weather pattern. We’re getting a bunch of moisture now,” says Eric Rebitzke, a fire manager at the Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn. “But we’d still like people to be careful with fire.”

Strict fire bans were imposed in May by Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson and the White River National Forest as authorities tried to prevent disaster while the worst drought on record strangled the state and turned brush to tinder dry kindling.

Several wildfires broke out in Eagle County this summer, but all were extinguished before threatening homes or buildings. The 5-acre blaze below the Wildridge neighborhood in Avon forced the evacuation of dozens of homes as flames crept toward the southern fringe of the neighborhood.

Perhaps the most widely-felt restriction was the banning of campfires in the valley and in the popular White River National Forest. That restriction was eased last week, allowing campers to set fires in designated campgrounds.

Officials remained wary, though September began with cooler weather and steady, sometimes heavy, rains. They waited for the wet weather to continue this week before lifting the bans Tuesday.

Authorities are still asking people to be careful with fire. The threat of wildfire still exists because grass and brush are freezing at night and then warming up during the day.

Campers should douse fires with water, stir and douse again until the remains are cold to the touch, says Kim Andree, a spokeswoman with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Campers should also use fire rings or pits and let larger fires burn down when winds picks up, Andree says.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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