Summit County moves to Stage 2 fire ban

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

The Summit County Government bumped its fire ban from Stage 1 to Stage 2 Wednesday, matching the U.S. Forest Service ban in effect throughout the White River National Forest.

The Town of Dillon and Park County have also bumped their fire restrictions to Stage 2.

Open burning is prohibited, as is disposing of burning objects outdoors, selling fireworks, operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrester, welding or operating a torch with open flame, and inflating or propelling hot air balloons.

Exemptions include liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces contained within buildings, and commercial, professional and municipal fireworks displays where specific written approval has been granted by the Summit County Sheriff.

County staff, including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, have been working on the resolution since Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statewide fire ban on June 14. The exemptions written into the county’s document match those in the governor’s ban.

The Summit County Board of County Commissioners worried that banning fire would crush July Fourth economic activity, but Sheriff John Minor said currently, the Town of Frisco is the only municipality seeking a written exemption.

“None of us in this room want to go down as the group that bankrupted Summit County,” county attorney Jeff Huntley said, adding that, at the same time, the county is an extension of the state.

Breckenridge, Dillon and Copper Mountain have all voluntarily nixed their fireworks displays. Minor added that he was confident Keystone would be following.

Minor and his staff are working on a draft letter of permission for the Town of Frisco which grants permission for the fireworks, but puts the onus on the town should a fire break out.

The letter is far from finalized, but it will likely include an insurance stipulation requiring Frisco to provide $5 million in insurance, based on county emergency manager Joel Cochran’s estimates. Another caveat is that the town would bear all costs of a fire above and beyond what Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue can cover.

“Even if we approve (their display), we can deny it up until the morning of the Fourth of July,” Minor added. “Even if the weather conditions change at the time of set-off, the (operator) could stop at his discretion.”

Frisco is at an advantage over other municipal and resort fireworks displays, as the town fires the cannons over the water. The lake becomes the deposition field, undersheriff Derrick Woodman said, adding that the adjacent area to the cannons is a small area of forest surrounded by water. That area gives way to green grass playing fields and then the pavement of Summit Middle School.

“The risk becomes minimized,” Woodman said.

The finalized letter should be sent to Frisco Town Council by Friday to be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Under these stipulations, Frisco will need to make a decision,” Minor said.

Other exemptions to the county’s fire ban could include welders whose livelihood depends on operating an open flame.

“We need to have the ability to be flexible and be reasonable for all the people doing business out there,” Minor said.

County officials already have variable message signs, fire ban signs and public service announcements notifying residents and guests of the Stage 1 fire ban. That language will change to announce the more stringent regulations.

Minor said his field staff, Mark Watson and Cale Osborn, have already issued several citations under the Stage 1 fire ban. Violation of these restrictions is a Class II petty offense, and is punishable by a fine of $150 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for all subsequent violations. The last time Stage 2 fire restrictions were enacted in Summit County was 2002.

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