Officials consider easing fire ban
SUMMIT COUNTY – Forest Service employees say they’re considering easing or lifting the local fire ban. A decision – either to keep the ban in place, modify it or lift it completely – is expected later this week, said Dillon District Ranger Jamie Connell.
The consideration comes in the wake of Gov. Bill Owens’ decision to lift of the state fire ban Sept. 12.
Since then, Sheriff Joe Morales said, some county residents have called him to ask when the local ban will be lifted. Monday, Morales passed that word along to the Summit County commissioners.
“I’ve been getting solicited pretty heavily from individuals, companies and the ski areas who want to burn slash,” he said. “Also, hunters will be coming in October. With cooler weather and moisture coming in, I just put the ball in the commissioners’ court. It’s up to them. I’m trying to be responsible to my constituents.
“I don’t want to overextend the credibility of the burn ban. We want to be reasonable. My message was, we need to stay in tune with what’s going on with the state. If we leave it in place until there are 9 feet of snow on the ground, I don’t know if that’s going to hurt the credibility.”
Because of last week’s inch of rain, local fire danger is now rated moderate. Earlier this summer, it was rated extreme.
Connell said various officials from mountain Forest Service offices today are debating any changes to the ban.
“We’re talking back and forth, looking at the fuel models, which tell us how dry our fuels are,” she said. “With the drying trend expected for the next seven to 10 days, we are considering whether or not it’s appropriate to lessen the fire restrictions.
“We’re very concerned about the impact it has on hunting and visitors in the forest,” Connell said. “We understand it creates an inconvenience for them.”
There are a range of possible changes, she said.
“It could be a number of things – a lessening of the fire restrictions, which could allow fires in developed campgrounds and hunting cook stoves, or relieving everyone of all the fire restrictions,” Connell said. “Or maybe we’ll decide to keep the restrictions in place.
“I would guess there would be some word from the Forest Service this week.”
County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to lift the ban.
“We don’t think it’s wet enough yet,” he said. “The forecast is for dry weather for the next few days. We’d also like to see the Forest Service and all four fire chiefs agree.”
Lake Dillon Fire Chief Francis Winston said he, too, thinks it’s premature to lift the ban.
“We’ve had some nice moisture here lately, but the big fuels, the heavy timbers, they’re still just as dry as they’ve always been,” he said. “The one thing that’s better, at least today, is the light fuels – the grasses and things like that. But that can change so fast.
“In my opinion, most people are used to the fact we’re in this burn ban. We ought to finish the year with it. But I won’t object if they lift it. I understand there are other issues out there.”
Even if the ban is modified to allow some burning, Summit County wildlife mitigation officer Patti Maguire said, she will still keep a close eye on conditions.
“I’m sure we’ll still have high-level days when I won’t allow burn permits,” she said.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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