Stage 2 fire restrictions in Eagle County are mostly working so far | VailDaily.com

Stage 2 fire restrictions in Eagle County are mostly working so far

EAGLE COUNTY — After only a few days, the decision to move the area into more restrictive Stage 2 fire restrictions seems to be mostly paying off.

Local fire department representatives say they've seen few, if any, violations of the restrictions. Those restrictions went into effect on Friday, June 29, for federal land in the county. Restrictions went into effect on Saturday, June 30, for the rest of the county, including private property.

Those restrictions ban all open burning and fireworks in Eagle County and limit smoking to those inside vehicles or structures.

Despite the restrictions, Eagle and Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville said his crews have found campfires "in the double digits" around the area.

Mayville said when campfires are found, Forest Service employees have discretion ranging from educating violators to issuing tickets.

Those tickets are expensive: $330 for the first violation.

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In addition to the fines for prohibited campfires and other spark-producing activities — including using chain saws or off-road vehicles that don't have approved spark arrestors — Mayville said the cost of starting a wildfire can add up quickly. Someone found guilty of starting a wildfire can be held liable for both property damage and the costs of fighting a wildfire.

The cost of just one aerial tanker run can range into the tens of thousands of dollars, Mayville said.

With all that said, Mayville noted, "Most of the people we've bumped into have been great" regarding the fire restrictions.

Still, Mayville said employees will be out and about this week and throughout the weekend on "fire severity patrols."

"We'll have people out everywhere," Mayville said.

More firefighters on hand

There are also additional resources available. The Forest Service has a total of five trucks stationed in the valley, up from the usual two.

And every firefighting agency in the valley is ready to help in any way possible.

Randy Cohen, fire marshal for the Eagle-based Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, said fire departments around the region have automatic mutual aid agreements. That region includes Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin, Routt and Grand counties. Any of those agencies can expect help as soon as possible from nearby fire departments.

A small fire that sparked on Friday, June 29, on U.S. Highway 6 between Eagle and Gypsum was an example of that mutual aid. Both Greater Eagle and the Gypsum Fire Protection District were on the scene in minutes — it's about a 5-minute drive from either station to the fire site.

Cohen said that fire was sparked by a welder and the people on that job site had proper equipment. But the wind quickly whipped that small fire into a larger, potentially more dangerous blaze.

Cohen, and Gypsum fire's Ray VanNatta, both said people so far have been adhering to the restrictions. Both added that their respective departments have fielded a lot of calls about what is and isn't allowed under Stage 2 restrictions.

"The public is being very receptive," Cohen said.

At the Avon-based Eagle River Fire Protection District, public information officer Tracy LeClair said that department — which covers the valley from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott — hasn't heard of any real problems in the first few days of the Stage 2 restrictions.

Plenty of other activities

Fire officials from around the Upper Colorado River basin hold a conference call every week to talk about fire conditions. LeClair said virtually the entire region is under the Stage 2 restrictions.

"We're all on the same page," LeClair said.

LeClair added that she's heard positive responses from residents about imposing the Stage 2 restrictions.

Now the challenge is to get out the word to the thousands of people coming to the mountains for the Fourth of July holiday.

LeClair said variable message signs along Interstate 70 and other highways all trumpet the restrictions. Local fire and police departments have also blanketed their social media pages with information about the restrictions.

"All we can hope for is that people will listen, and everybody who comes, comes for how beautiful it is," LeClair said. No campfires and no fireworks may put something of a damper on camping. But, LeClair added, "There are plenty of other things people can do … and there will be other years (for fireworks)."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

It’s going to stay dry

Here’s a look at the National Weather Service forecast for Vail through Saturday, July 7:

• Tuesday, July 3: High of 79, with a 10 percent chance of showers.

• Wednesday, July 4: High near 78, with a 20 percent chance of showers.

• Thursday, July 5: A 30 percent chance of showers, with a high near 79.

• Friday, July 6: Mostly sunny, with a high near 79.

• Saturday: July 7: Sunny, with a high near 81.

The forecasts for the same period for Avon and Gypsum essentially eliminate any chance of precipitation, and forecast warmer high temperatures.

Source: National Weather Service, Grand Junction