Summit County to enact Stage 1 fire restrictions, setting rules on campfires, smoking
FRISCO — Summit County and the U.S. Forest Service are set to enter into Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday as fuel sources around the county continue to dry out.
On Thursday morning, the Summit Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution to enter into fire restrictions on the recommendation of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and fire chiefs. Restrictions will go into effect Friday as county officials work to get ahead of the early fall wildfire season.
A complete list of Summit County and U.S. Forest Service fire restrictions can by found at the bottom of this story.
Of note, Summit County is the first in the state to enact restrictions this year following a prolific snow season and a wet spring. But officials say the county’s altitude creates more challenges in regard to fire conditions than other areas of the state.
“We dry out a lot quicker than many places with our high Alpine environment,” Summit County’s director of emergency management Brian Bovaird said. “All of the conditions that would promote wildfires can come on much more rapidly here than at lower elevations.
“The other part of this is the last two years, we had already done the executive process with the commissioners to enact a Stage 1 fire restriction. On both of those days, a fire broke out. Peak 2 and (the Buffalo Mountain Fire) both happened on days where restrictions where set to go in. We were a little too late. In learning those lessons, we’re trying to get ahead of the curve and put these restrictions in place, and do the public messaging before it’s too late.”
Summit County officially raised the fire danger level from moderate to high on Wednesday, citing an increase in fire danger indices for timber and grass fuels around the county.
The decision to move into restrictions is ultimately in the hands of the county commissioners but is largely informed during weekly calls between county, state and federal partners who discuss fuel models, long-range weather forecasts and other impacts like human activity in the area.
According to Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, the county has a number of factors it takes into consideration before enacting fire restrictions, including energy release components, level of human caused risk, live fuel moisture levels, the amount of weather relief expected over the next week and the regional preparedness level — defined by the availability of state and national resources to assist in the event of a fire.
“We have certain thresholds we look at,” FitzSimons said. “When the forest reaches the thresholds, we start looking at restrictions. We all knew this day would come, when things dry out and the rain tapers off. Our high altitude, beetle kill and our human impacts with how many people come into the area are added measures we look at. … We have some outliers that other communities don’t have.”
Adding to concerns for the fire districts is the amount of vegetation that came out of the heavy rain this spring. Summit Fire and EMS spokesman Steve Lipsher said “super tall” grasses and other fast-growing shrubs are rapidly drying and could create a substantial amount of fuel in the event of a fire.
As the county enters into Stage 1 restrictions, the towns in the county are expected to follow suit. Earlier this year, the towns entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the county in an effort to unify the language of fire restrictions, provide more consistency and improve clarity for residents and visitors.
“We worked a lot over the winter to look at the process of how we identify when to go into restrictions, and coordinated with all of the towns and the Forest Service to try and have more consistency,” Bovaird said. “We want to be proactive and not reactive since we have everyone in lockstep. Before every town had different language and variations in what is allowed and what isn’t. That’s changed, so we can get a better understanding to the public of what this means.”
While the U.S. Forest Service isn’t part of the new agreement, the department is in on all of the discussions and will join the county in enacting Stage 1 fire restrictions in the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest on Friday. The Forest Service restrictions do differ from the county’s restrictions, and are worth reviewing separately for anyone planning on visiting the White River National Forest.
With a relatively easy wildfire season for the area’s fire services so far, officials are hoping community members will do their part to keep the streak alive.
“This isn’t unusual in late summer to enter our second wildfire season,” Lipsher said. “And we still have heavy visitation with campers, and soon there will be hunters heading into the woods. I want to encourage backcountry travelers to adhere to the restrictions, especially with campfires in the woods. Individuals should also be cautious of things like driving four-wheelers or other vehicles into the grass, where a hot pipe could potentially ignite something. … The essential thing is to prevent fires in the backcountry.”
Summit County Stage 1 fire restrictions
U.S. Forest Service Stage 1 fire restrictions
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