Camping? Watch those fires |

Camping? Watch those fires

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Dillon Ranger District rated fire danger in Summit County forests as “moderate” Friday, but officials are nonetheless urging campers, hikers and other national forest visitors to exercise great caution.

Areas with higher early-summer temperatures tend to dry out earlier, so the greatest fire danger now is in locations below 7,500 feet in elevation. But even without high temperatures, the dry, dead trees left behind by the mountain pine beetle epidemic create cause for concern.

“Even when we have lower fire-danger ratings, we have some situations where the potential for fires to get started from unattended campfires is still fairly strong,” White River National Forest spokesman Patrick Thrasher said. “We’re trying to get the word out: Don’t get complacent. Even though there are no fire restrictions, you still need to be careful with campfires.”

Stoves and cigarettes also merit close attention.

Thrasher advised always having a shovel and a bucket of water in the immediate vicinity of a burning campfire, and he urged against lighting fires that aren’t needed. Also, fireworks are illegal on federal and state public land.

“I know there’s a whole tradition of sitting around the campfire and telling stories, singing songs and toasting marshmallows, but you have to ask, ‘Is this something we need, or is it just nice to do?'” Thrasher said.

When putting out a fire, the work isn’t done until coals and ashes stop sizzling, and they’re cool to the touch of a bare hand.

So far this year, there have been 154 human-caused fires in Colorado and 389 in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota combined, burning a total of almost 20,000 acres.

As the summer progresses, fire danger is likely to increase, so it’s important to monitor weather conditions, check for county fire restrictions and build campfires safely, officials say.

SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or

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