Extreme fire danger this fall | SummitDaily.com

Extreme fire danger this fall

Christine McManus
Forest Service firefighters keep an eye on a prescribed burn southeast of Interstate 70 near Silverthorne on Oct. 1. Authorities' concerns about wildland fires rose Monday with the announcement of the elevation of fire danger to "extreme."

SUMMIT COUNTY – An especially dry autumn has resulted in extremely high wildfire danger levels in Summit County and across Colorado.

“We’ve go a lot of dead leaves and light fuels out there, so it won’t take much to start a fire that could get out of control,” said Capt. Mike Rutherford of the Red, White and Blue Fire Department. “As long as there’s no wind, fires in the approved campfire rings should be OK.”

Wildfire experts raised the fire danger level to the extreme on Monday, warning hunters and campers to be extra careful with campfires in the backcountry. Extreme fire danger is the most serious of the fire potential ratings.

Little rain or snow has fallen in the the past month, so trees and grasses are more prone to catch fire. Adding fuel to the fire potential in recent weeks, the High Country has seen several serious freezes overnight. Freezing temperatures killed remaining greenery, and wind quickly wicked the remaining moisture away.

Campfires are still allowed, but campers and hunters should be careful and watch out for gusty winds, firefighters said. The past couple of months, Summit County Wildfire Mitigation Officer Patti Maguire said she extinguished several abandoned campfires still smoldering because they spread underground to the root systems of trees.

Controlled burns are suspended in Summit County, except for those at ski resorts.

Residents who recently received controlled burn permits to burn slash on their properties will not be authorized to set fires until the fire danger rating is reduced to moderate or lower levels.

Controlled burn permit holders must call emergency services dispatchers for permission before taking advantage of the permit. Right now, permission is not being given to controlled burn permit holders.

Prescribed burns are also on hold. Prescribed burns are fires ignited on purpose by firefighters in an attempt to maintain forest health by burning excess dead wood. Areas that experience prescribed burns typically are less susceptible to out-of-control wildfires. The ashes return nutrients to the soil.

“Until we get a good blanket of snow on the ground we’re facing a serious fire danger,” said Snake River Fire Chief Dave Parmley. “The fire season is not over, so we’re asking people to be very careful with open flames and all ignition sources such as lit cigarettes and campfires.”

Christine McManus can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or cmcmanus@summitdaily.com.

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