Summit County, towns adopt agreement on unified fire restrictions, implementation criteria |

Summit County, towns adopt agreement on unified fire restrictions, implementation criteria

Summit County formally adopted an intergovernmental agreement with the towns of Breckenridge, Blue River, Dillon, Frisco, Montezuma and Silverthorne that would better unify the development and process of how the county and towns implement fire restrictions.

The intergovernmental agreement outlines a process by which the county would adopt Stage 1 or 2 fire restrictions based on unified risk criteria with updated language based on feedback from fire experts and officials. The towns will be given notice of the restriction implementation within 24 hours and have the discretion to implement their own restrictions.

The U.S. Forest Service, which maintains its own fire restriction criteria, are not a party to the agreement, and the White River National Forest will continue to independently enter and exit restrictions according to its own decision-making process.

The agreement, which is voluntary and non-binding, officially memorializes an informal process that had already been in use to implement fire restrictions countywide.

Previously, with no agreement in place, the counties and towns would all go through their own legislative process to implement their own fire restrictions. That method was inefficient and also caused confusion due to certain differences in restriction language.

Now both the language and the process is unified, although all involved governments have the option to opt-out of the agreement or otherwise decline to follow the county and other towns’ leads. While the discretionary language gives towns the ability to back out, county manager Scott Vargo said he expected towns to follow the agreement when the need arises.

As for the criteria for entering or leaving fire restrictions, the agreement formalizes two sets of criteria of going into Stage 1 or Stage 2 restrictions — including the old, simplified criteria set and a second, newer criteria set with more factors to consider. Commissioners may use either or both sets of criteria when making a decision about fire restriction implementation.

Among the factors considered for entering Stage 1 or the upgraded Stage 2 fire restrictions are the risk of human-caused fire activity, which takes into account major holidays and big crowds; the “region preparedness level” fire districts use to prioritize resource allocation; live fuel moisture readings; lack of rain; and the Energy Release Component, among other factors.

Officials deciding whether to go into the restrictions should strongly consider implementation if four or more criteria are met, merely consider restrictions if three are met, and are advised not to impose restrictions if no criteria are met.

As for the restrictions themselves, they should be familiar to most residents, but with specific language that differentiates between permitted and prohibited activities, avoiding confusion from years past. Both the county and towns will follow the same set of restrictions.

Among the key items clarified in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions is language specifying that outdoor smoking of cigarettes is permitted as long as the smoker is at least 3 feet away from any vegetation or flammable material. Under both sets of restrictions, the use of chainsaws and open flame torches are permitted as long as a 2A10BC classified dry chemical fire extinguisher is available for immediate use.

Stage 1 fire restrictions still allow for outdoor fires on private property if they meet certain standards — including the need to be contained to a commercially designed outdoor fireplace or portable fireplace, with flames kept to a size no larger than 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall with barren soil underneath it, burning at least 15 feet away from any flammable material or structure.

Other permitted Stage 1 outdoor fires include authorized pile burns, campfires at dispersed camping sites within a built-up metal fire ring; fires contained within a permanent enclosure; grills that use gas, charcoal or pellets; among other permitted uses listed in the restrictions. Commercial sale of firewood and charcoal is also permitted.

In the case of any permitted fire, a responsible adult must always supervise the fire, it must be extinguished properly and cool to the touch before leaving the site, and at least one method of extinguishment — such as a fire extinguisher, bucket of water or hose — must be nearby and ready for use.

Prohibited activities during a Stage 1 fire ban include the use or sale of fireworks, tracer ammunition, recreational explosives, and disposal of any burning object outdoors — including cigarettes — without extinguishing them. So while smokers are free to smoke 3 feet away from vegetation or flammable material, they must also ensure cigarettes are properly put out and disposed of afterward.

Under Stage 2 fire restrictions, most open outdoor fires on public or private property are prohibited with few exceptions such as gas grills and fires contained within permanent enclosed structures — such as an enclosed fireplace, wood burning stove or pellet stove.

All other open fires, including those at designated fire sites at picnic and camp areas, are prohibited under Stage 2. The other prohibited activities under Stage 1, including use or sale of fireworks and tracer rounds, are also banned under Stage 2. Under state law, fireworks are defined as “any composition or device designed to produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, deflagration or detonation.”

Stage 2 also prohibits using internal or external combustion engines without an appropriate spark arresting device installed.

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