Scott Fitzwilliams: Fire restrictions and the recreation experience
Forest Supervisor, White River National Forest
The wildland fire situation is serious, with several large fires burning across Colorado. Contributing factors for this include: low snowfall winter and a dryer that normal spring; an early fire season; and fire severity indicators that surpass the conditions we experienced in 2002, the year of the Coal Seam and Haymen Fires. For example, moisture levels in forest fuels types are very low, and both relative humidity (moisture in the air) and soil moisture are extremely low. Fire severity indicators are at historic highs. The long-term forecast shows continued hot and dry weather. Because of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, many areas of the forest have heavy fuel loads.
Given these conditions, on June 22, I implemented Stage II fire restrictions on the White River National Forest (WRNF). By implementing these restrictions, our goal is to reduce the possibility of human-caused fires so we can better use our firefighting resources where they are needed most. The last time this was done was in 2002.
Stage II restrictions prohibit all open fires, including charcoal grills, regardless of location. Smoking is prohibited except in enclosed areas such as vehicles, buildings or tents. Note, the use of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices are always prohibited on Forest Service, Park Service or Bureau of Land Management lands.
Stage II restrictions also prohibit the use of exploding targets and model rockets. Chainsaws must be equipped with manufacturer-approved spark arrestors, and operators must have a shovel, fire extinguisher and five gallons of water readily available.
I have been asked, “How long will Stage II restrictions be in place?” I intend to leave these restrictions in place until we see a significant change in weather and fuels conditions. Please monitor the weather reports and our website (www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver) for current information. Current information on all of Colorado’s wildfires is available at http://www.inciweb.org.
I have talked with a number of folks who feel that being unable to have a campfire changes the whole recreation experience. Some have said they feel so strongly about having a campfire that they will not come to the WRNF during fire restrictions. I understand this and ask that recreationist consider other options if they choose not to visit the WRNF. There are numerous communities and events surrounding the WRNF who are open for business. I hope you consider these opportunities and have an enjoyable summer.
Please help me get the word out about summer recreation opportunities as well as our fire restrictions. If you have questions, contact us at (970) 945-2521 for the most up-to-date information.
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