Summit County enacts fire bans

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
A firefighter walks the fire line on the northwest corner of the Stuart Hole Fire on Tuesday June 5, 2012, northwest of Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/The Coloradoan, Sam Noblett) NO SALES
AP | The Coloradoan

BRECKENRIDGE – Open fires and the use and sale of fireworks are now prohibited throughout most of Summit County, as officials react to high fire danger conditions and forecasts calling for continued dry weather.

The Summit Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a stage-one fire ban Thursday. The White River National Forest and the towns of Silverthorne, Breckenridge and Frisco are imposing bans effective today as well.

“The time is right,” Red, White and Blue Fire chief Lori Miller stated in a release from the county. “We support these restrictions 100 percent, and we are relying on the citizens and visitors of Summit County to remain vigilant and help prevent human-caused fires throughout what could potentially be a long and challenging fire season.”

An open fire is any outdoor fire, including campfires and prescribed burns.

The ban comes as Summit County’s fire danger rating climbed to high this week and the energy release component, a measurement that indicates how hot a fire would burn, reached the 90th percentile.

The ban makes an exception for “pre-approved fireworks,” allowing for the July Fourth displays traditionally held at local resorts and towns.

Officials warned that the ban, while intended to curb the risk of human-triggered wildfires, would not eliminate all possible ignition sources.

“(The ban) is not going to do anything about the wind and trees blowing into power lines,” Lake Dillon Fire chief Dave Parmley said. “We just have to keep that in mind. This is being directed toward primarily human intervention and will go toward limiting carelessness and disregard for conditions.”

The Keystone Gulch fire last June and the Montezuma fire in March started after trees fell on power lines.

The Forest Service has implemented more stringent fire restrictions for the White River National Forest.

With certain exceptions, smoking cigarettes, operating chainsaws and internal combustion engines and building or using fires, campfires, coal or wood-burning stoves or broilers is now prohibited on Forest Service land.

“I realize these restrictions will cause some inconveniences to forest users,” Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams stated in a release Thursday. “But the conditions we are experiencing are severe. The potential for large, expensive wildfires is real. We need to take these steps to minimize the potential for human-caused fire.”

Without even a chance of moisture in the forecast through the weekend, temperatures expected to rise into the 70s, and wind expected to begin tomorrow, Parmley said conditions are ripe for a red flag warning.

Red flag warnings mean the weather is ideal for fueling a wildfire.

Officials will continue to monitor the weather and other danger indicators over the next several weeks. Restrictions could be tightened if conditions worsen.

“This is the proper first step,” Parmley told the county commissioners prior to their vote Thursday. “We’ll just have to see in the coming few weeks if it needs to be ramped up further.”

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