Fire danger could be on the rise soon
SUMMIT COUNTY -With the weather warming up in Summit County, rising fire danger may not be too far behind, and fire officials want people to practice extra precautions when barbecuing, smoking cigarettes or dealing with any open flame.The fire danger in the county was rated moderate as of Thursday. Fire officials have discussed raising the danger to high because temperatures had been expected to reach 80 by today, but county fire mitigation officer Patti Maguire won’t make that decision until this morning. Maguire examines various weather forecasts each morning to track weather trends in order to determine the fire danger, but there isn’t an exact science to the job, she said.”A lot of it is kind of like sticking your finger out in the wind, and seeing how crunchy it is in the woods,” Maguire said.Generally, the Memorial Day weekend is when Maguire begins closely watching the fire danger, in part to educate the packs of tourists coming into the county for the holiday.
Also when the weather is cooler, she wants people to have the opportunity to burn slash and other yard debris to help reduce fire fuels. Burn permits cannot be acted upon when the fire danger is high. “Unless we have a pretty good heat wave, we’re going to try to give people that opportunity,” Maguire said.If and when the fire danger does increase, people should be more cautious when dealing with any fire. For instance, be extra careful not to flick cigarettes out of the car window, don’t leave barbecues unattended as the winds can blow them over and be aware of driving around with a hot car muffler, which can spark dry grasses. It’s important for people to remember that just because Summit County saw a slightly above-average snowpack this winter doesn’t mean the fire season is going to be low, said Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton.”Things are drying out, we had a very dry spring,” Newton said. “We could have an above-average fire activity this summer, by all means, unless things really turn around during the monsoon season. That’s not what our long-range weather forecast says at this point.”Newton said the potential is there for wildfires to begin igniting fairly soon, particularly in the lower elevations.
Local firefighters are ready.They began prepping in March for the wildfire season because the danger on the Front Range was high, and they wanted to be prepared to help fire crews there if necessary.”We are ahead of the ball in terms of being prepared for the wildfire season,” said Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue public affairs coordinator Rachel Hanson.The last two of Breckenridge’s Red, White and Blue Fire Department employees to take the beginner wildland fire course will be completed with the class after this weekend, said department spokesperson Capt. Kim Scott.The department is also in the process of stocking another type 6 fire vehicle for the county, which is about the size of a Ford 350 pick-up truck. Red, White and Blue is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to add a second Smokey the Bear fire danger sign near its station at the corner of the Tiger Road and Highway 9. If the sign’s approved, it would be situated between the recreation path and the highway, Scott said.
Other sign are at the department’s Blue River station, and at Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue stations in Silverthorne and Keystone.The fire danger in surrounding counties has already begun to increase.On Thursday, Clear Creek County entered Stage 1 fire restrictions, banning all outdoor open fires except for those contained in pre-existing fire pits and under constant surveillance.In Park County, where firefighters have already doused two small wildland fires in the past month, officials enacted the same fire restrictions on May 1.
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