Summit County to return to Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday

The Summit Board of County Commissioners voted to return to Stage 1 fire restrictions during a special meeting Tuesday, July 6. The fire danger in Summit County is currently moderate.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

The Summit Board of County Commissioners voted to return to Stage 1 fire restrictions during a special meeting Tuesday, July 6. The new restrictions will go into effect Friday, July 9.

Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the move to lower restrictions comes on the recommendation of Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, who advocated for the change following conversations with officials throughout the region and recent changes to the county’s four restriction criteria: energy release component, fuel moisture thresholds, weather patterns and the potential for human-caused ignitions.

“We continue to base our decisions on data and science because we feel that’s the best way to let folks know we’re making wise decisions,” Pogue said. “When folks have confidence in our decisions, they’re more likely to follow those decisions.”

Open fires remain prohibited, but the downgrade to Stage 1 restrictions means that community members will once again be able to have permitted backyard fires and campfires at developed recreation sites around the county. Grills, stoves and smokers that use charcoal and wood pellets will be allowed, as well.

Fireworks and explosives of any kind are still prohibited, including the use of tracer ammunition, along with smoking in vegetated areas, the disposal of burning objects outside and more.

The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest is also planning to reenter Stage 1 restrictions Friday, according to FitzSimons.

The administrative closure of the Summit County Shooting Range also will be lifted Friday. Pogue said county staff members are working to communicate updates on the noise mitigation schedule to nearby residents.

The fire danger level in the county remains at moderate.

Remain vigilant

Despite the change in restrictions, county officials are urging residents and visitors to keep the local fire restrictions in mind when recreating this summer.

The commissioners enacted the season’s first Stage 1 fire restrictions June 18, and the board increased prohibitions a week later on June 25 with the implementation of Stage 2 restrictions. Most community members have taken the constraints to heart — eschewing July Fourth fireworks and keeping their charcoal grills in the garage for the past two weeks — but a few have been less considerate.

Officials say any number of violations is too many given the risks.

“If you look at where we are, year after year we’re getting less moisture, less snow, drying out more, hotter temperatures,” FitzSimons said. “This year especially, after those fires were so close to us in Grand County last year, I would say the majority of people are very sensitive to this. And to support our community, we’ve had zero tolerance for violations of fire restrictions. People have to know we’re taking this seriously; the risk is too great.”

Between June 18 and July 5, there have been at least 16 recorded violations of the fire ban, according to Summit 911 Center Director Jerry Del Valle. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has handled the majority of calls, and deputies have already issued 12 tickets to residents and visitors as part of the office’s zero tolerance policy.

According to Summit County Ordinance No. 14, a document passed by the Board of County Commissioners in 2003 that provides penalty assessments for violators, offenders are subject to fines of $150 for the first violation, $500 for the second and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

FitzSimons said that with Summit County, local towns and the Dillon Ranger District all making efforts to enter restrictions in tandem, there’s little excuse for community members not to know the rules.

“To me, even 12 (tickets) is intolerable,” FitzSimons said. “… It wasn’t like last year where people may have been confused. In past years, there have been times when the (U.S. Forest Service) was not in restrictions and we were. But this year, that’s what stands out: We were consistent with our federal partners. The fact that we wrote 12 tickets, there’s no excuse for it.”

Many of the calls coming through the dispatch center aren’t legitimate violations, but they all need to be checked in on regardless. Since restrictions went into place, the most common calls to dispatch have been for potential illegal campfires, with 55 in total, Del Valle said. The 12 tickets written by the Sheriff’s Office were all for illegal campfires, according to FitzSimons.

There have been at least 25 calls to dispatch regarding illegal fireworks, though officials said offenders are typically gone by the time law enforcement arrives to investigate. There have also been more than 20 calls related to outdoor smoke sightings since restrictions went into place.

Del Valle said several of the calls, especially the illegal campfires, are coming from popular camping areas around the county, and he believes residents and visitors have been more sensitive to others breaking the regulations in light of last year’s wildfire season.

“Most of them are near the Rock Creek Trailhead by Silverthorne,” Del Valle said. “… I think it kind of changes from one year to another. Last year, or two years ago, we were having a lot of calls toward the Breck area by Illinois Gulch. It’s really wherever you see camping is where it happens. This is somewhat subjective, but I think this year there are a lot of people coming up to the mountains and walking the trails, and I think people are more vigilant.”

Prohibited under Stage 1 fire restrictions

Open fires: Except those that have been permitted by the applicable local fire district in the permitted activities. Open fires are 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.

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 or 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. The use of recreational explosives, including explosive targets.

Disposal: Disposal of any burning object outdoors, including without limitation, any cigarette, cigar or match.

Chain saws: Operation of a chainsaw 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 (with a minimum 8-ounce capacity and rating of 2A) kept with the operator, and one round point 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 without being in a cleared area of at least 10 feet in diameter and keeping a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher (with a minimum 8-ounce capacity and rating of 2A) with the operator.

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