Fire restrictions considered

Conditions call for bans on certain fires, officials say

Campers be warned: Routt County officials may approve a ban on open fires.

During a meeting this afternoon, the Routt County Board of Commissioners will consider enacting fire restrictions that, if approved, would take effect as early as 5 p.m. today.

Chuck Vale, the county's director of emergency management, asked commissioners Monday to approve the restrictions. Vale said the county meets several criteria that measure fire danger. The criteria include the amount a piece of wood would burn, the amount of moisture in leaves, and a fire's potential effect on local resources, said Kent Foster, supervisory forester for Routt National Forest.

Other agencies considering fire restrictions include the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, Foster said. Counties considering restrictions include Moffat, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties.

The region is experiencing a drought, Foster said. Other fire dangers include trees that have been killed by bark beetles and shrubs that were killed by frost. Foster said he is concerned that those factors make it unsafe for people coming to the area for the Fourth of July weekend.

Vale said the restrictions have nothing to do with the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, which is taking place on national forest land near Big Red Park, 35 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

The fire restrictions being considered by Routt County commissioners would not affect the Rainbow gathering; however, Forest Service officials are considering restrictions that would affect it. Those restrictions could take effect as early as Wednesday, Foster said.

Foster said he was not sure whether the Rainbow gatherers' communal kitchens would be part of any fire restrictions. He also said he was concerned about the safety of people at the gathering. The location is not ideal because there is limited road access and many of the area's trees are dead, Foster said.

"We want to work with them," Foster said. "We want to protect resources and, most importantly, people."

Restricted activities would include:

Campfires, warming fires, charcoal grills and fires to burn trash or vegetation. However, fires in designated pits in campgrounds, picnic areas or developed recreation sites would be allowed. Permitted uses include liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces within buildings, charcoal grill fires at private residences and permanent fire pits or fire grates in developed picnic areas and campgrounds.

Smoking. Smoking would be allowed in enclosed vehicles and buildings, developed recreation sites and in areas 3 feet or larger in diameter that are barren of all flammable materials.

Operating a chain saw, unless several conditions are met.

Welding or operating acetylene or other torches with open flames. However, such activities would be allowed in areas barren of all flammable materials for a diameter of at least 10 feet.

Explosives requiring fuse-blasting caps.

People could burn fires in restricted areas if they have valid written permits from the jurisdictions in which they plan to burn. Some irrigation-ditch burning also would be allowed. The restrictions would not apply to fireworks.

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com.

hat: Routt County Board of Commissioners hearing on fire restrictions

When: 1:30 p.m. today

Where: Commissioners hearing room in the Routt County Courthouse Annex, 136 Sixth St.

Call: Routt County Sheriff's Office at 879-1090 or Routt County Emergency Management at 870-5551

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