Fire danger could be on the rise soon
SUMMIT COUNTY – With the weather warming up in the High Country, rising fire danger may not be too far behind, and fire officials want people to practice extra precautions when barbecuing, smoking cigarettes or dealing with any open flame.The fire danger in the county was rated moderate as of Thursday. Fire officials have discussed raising the danger to high because temperatures had been expected to reach 80 into the weekend. The fire danger in surrounding counties has already begun to increase.On Thursday, Clear Creek County imposed fire restrictions, banning all outdoor open fires except for those in fire pits.
In Park County, where firefighters have already doused two small wildland fires in the past month, officials enacted the same fire restrictions May 1.”We’re getting close,” Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said. “We’re not at a critical stage yet, but we will be if we don’t get some good rain soon, especially in the western county.”Summit County fire mitigation officer Patti Maguire examines several weather forecasts each morning to determine the fire danger, but there isn’t an exact science to the job, she said.”A lot of it is kind of like sticking your finger out in the wind, and seeing how crunchy it is in the woods,” Maguire said.
And it’s starting to get crunchy in Eagle County. A crew was sent to Cottonwood Pass Friday afternoon on a report of a small fire.Generally, the Memorial Day weekend is when Maguire begins closely watching the fire danger, in part to educate the packs of tourists coming into the county for the holiday.She also wants residents to have a chance to burn slash and other yard debris to help reduce fire fuels while it’s still cool.”Unless we have a pretty good heat wave, we’re going to try to give people that opportunity,” Maguire said.If and when the fire danger does increase, people should be cautious when dealing with fire. For instance, be extra careful not to flick cigarettes out of the car window, and don’t leave barbecues unattended as the winds can blow them over.It’s important for people to remember that just because the region saw a slightly above-average snowpack this winter doesn’t mean the fire season is going to be slow, said Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton.”Things are drying out, we had a very dry spring,” Newton said. “We could have an above-average fire activity this summer, by all means, unless things really turn around. That’s not what our long-range weather forecast says at this point.”Newton said the potential is there for wildfires to begin igniting fairly soon, particularly in the lower elevations.That’s true in Eagle County, too.”With a dry spell and high winds, it can dry up real fast,” Hoy said. “We’ve gone from good to dry in one or two days.”
Area firefighters are ready.”We are ahead of the ball in terms of being prepared for the wildfire season,” said Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue public affairs coordinator Rachel Hanson.”We just get ready,” said Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Charlie Moore. Crews in the Avon-based district have taken wildfire testing this spring, Moore said, and firefighters have the gear they need to fight wildfires.And it may not be long before Eagle County follows the lead of Front Range counties in putting a fire ban in place.”Without a wet summer, we’ll have some sort of fire ban in place soon,” Hoy said.Daily Staff Writer Scott Miller contributed to this report.Vail, Colorado
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