Summit County to enact Stage 2 fire restrictions Friday
Restrictions prohibit all open fires; shooting range will also be closed
The Summit Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to enact Stage 2 fire restrictions during its regular meeting Tuesday, June 22. The restrictions will take effect Friday, June 25.
Just a week after the commissioners approved the move into Stage 1 restrictions, Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons again stepped in front of the board to recommend heightened restrictions based on conversations with local, state and federal officials along with the county’s restriction criteria dealing specifically with fire conditions in the area.
“We’re seeing continued extreme drought conditions,” FitzSimons said in an interview with the Summit Daily on Tuesday afternoon. “Our live fuel moistures and our energy-release component have reached Stage 2 thresholds. We are continually monitoring those and have been talking with our local, state and federal partners over the weekend. We all met (Tuesday), and what we thought was going to happen did happen. We reached and exceeded these thresholds that put us into Stage 2.”
Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit all open fires within Summit County along with previously permitted fires on private property. Fires within developed campgrounds or picnic areas, even those in a permanent fire pit or grate, are also banned.
In addition to campfires, the restrictions prohibit a number of other activities, including fireworks, explosives of any kind, slash and pile burns, charcoal and wood pellet grills, smokers, wood-burning stoves and smoking in vegetated areas, among others.
The use of liquid- or gas-fueled devices and fires contained inside fully enclosed permanent structures are permitted.
The Summit County Shooting Range will be closed Friday, though it will likely be busy until then. FitzSimons said law enforcement agencies around the county have state-mandated training that still needs to be completed at the range before it’s closed.
The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest also is expected to enact Stage 2 restrictions Friday, according to FitzSimons. And while there is a delay, county officials urged community members to begin making changes to their behaviors now.
“We have an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service; we try to do this together,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “As government, we are often slow-moving, but the U.S. Forest Service and the federal government are really slow-moving. So it takes a few days on this. We would ask our community in the meantime to really adhere to some personal responsibility. If you know that we’re going into Stage 2 in a couple days, please make wise choices out there.”
The county determines when to enact fire restrictions based upon a set of four criteria: energy-release component, the risk of human-caused fires, fuel moisture levels and the chance of significant weather relief within the next week.
FitzSimons said the county has met all criteria, as current conditions include live fuel moisture levels well below historic thresholds and an energy-release component above 97% for the past five days, a metric used to measure the available energy per square foot based on live and dead fuels within an area.
Given the number of visitors in the county, and Fourth of July around the corner, officials also voiced a concern about heightened risks of human-caused fires and a desire to get the word out about restrictions ahead of the holiday weekend.
FitzSimons said that while there is some rain forecast later this week, the community couldn’t count on much relief. As far as the long-term weather outlook goes, FitzSimons said the county would likely remain in Stage 2 restrictions for some time.
“The long-term outlooks that we’ve talked about many times for the summer … is for an extended drought, extended above normal temperatures and below (average) precipitation,” FitzSimons said.
Summit County didn’t enact Stage 2 fire restrictions until Aug. 13 last year. But as conditions continue to worsen, and wildfires continue to ignite around the state, officials said there’s no reason to delay.
Local fire officials agree with the move. A Summit Fire & EMS crew responded to a small grass fire off Lodgepole Drive in Frisco on Tuesday afternoon, but the fire was doused by a nearby worker before firefighters arrived. While the ignition turned out to be relatively uneventful — burning about 50 feet and leaving nearby trees unscorched — it did serve as a reminder that fires can kick off anywhere, including in residential areas.
“Unfortunately, it’s a necessity given our fuel moisture levels, the threat of fire and what we’ve seen popping up all around us like the one in Sylvan Lake — big fires, scary fires,” Summit Fire spokesperson Steve Lipsher said. “Our weather pattern has set up to the point where we need to put everybody on high alert and reduce in any way we can the possibility of inadvertent wildfire starts.”
Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District Chief Jim Keating called the Stage 2 restrictions a necessity, especially given how poorly community members responded to the Stage 1 restrictions put in place last week.
“We were hoping when we went into Stage 1 that it would really send a message and the public would react by being a little more cautious … and obviously the message didn’t get there,” Keating said. “… I became really uncomfortable over the weekend. The number of unattended campfires we got on Saturday and Sunday, when we had the winds, was untenable. In any given hour, we may get four or five unattended campfires or attended illegal campfires. Luck had to be with us that things were just in the right area that we didn’t have an incident occur from it.”
As fire conditions continue to intensify, the county’s fire districts are trying to keep their resources close to home. Keating said Red, White & Blue sent a crew to the Porcupine Fire in Park County on Monday but otherwise doesn’t have any firefighters out on mutual aid responses. Summit Fire currently has a three-person crew on a two-week deployment in Arizona, but Lipsher said the district would try to keep the rest of the team close at hand given the current fire danger.
• Open fires: Open fires shall be defined as any outdoor fire, including but not limited to campfire, warming fires, bonfires or the prescribed burning of fence rows, fields, wildlands, trash and debris
• Solid-fuel burning fires (wood or charcoal): Igniting, building and maintaining fires on private property that have been permitted by the applicable local fire district
• Smoking: Except in an enclosed vehicle or building, designated outdoor areas where smoking is permitted, or while stopped in an area that is at least 3 feet in diameter and is barren or cleared of all flammable material
• Fireworks: The use and sale of recreational fireworks
• Explosives: The use of tracer ammunition — including recreational use of any projectile containing explosive material, incendiary material or other chemical substance — and the use of recreational explosives, including explosive targets
• Disposal: Disposal of any burning object outdoors, including any cigarette, cigar or match
• Chain saws: Operation of a chain saw is prohibited without a USDA or Society of Automotive Engineers approved spark arrester properly installed and in effective working order, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher kept with the operator, and a shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches readily available for use
• Commercial and industrial operations: Blasting, grinding, welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame
• Developed recreational sites: Fires within a campgrounds or picnic area (developed recreation site) defined as a fire contained in a permanent metal or concrete fire pit or grate that the U.S. Forest Service has installed and maintained
• Undeveloped recreational sites: Fires within dispersed camping areas or other forested areas
• Grills, stoves and smokers: Use of charcoal or wood pellet grills, smokers and barbecues, coal- and wood-burning stoves and sheepherder’s stoves
• Hot air balloons: Inflation or propulsion of a hot air balloon
• Agricultural and large pile burns: Prohibited even with the appropriate permits from the state department of environmental health
• Slash burns: Prohibited even with the appropriate permit from the local fire protection district
• Combustion engines: Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without an effective and properly installed USDA or Society of Automotive Engineers approved spark arrestor
• Off-highway vehicles: Possessing or using a motor vehicle off established roads, motorized trails or established parking areas, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the vehicle.
• Liquid or gas-fueled devices: Heating devices, stoves, grills, lanterns, fire pits, fireplaces or fire tables that include shut-off valves are permitted when used in an area at least 3 or more feet from flammable materials such as grasses or pine needles.
• Fires contained inside permanent structures: Any fire contained within a fireplace, stove, wood-burning stove or pellet stove designed for and located within a fully enclosed permanent structure.
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