HomeNews County lifts Stage-2 fire ban after recent rains
County lifts Stage-2 fire ban after recent rains
Written by Mark Reaman
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
“We’re not out of the woods yet...”
With the recent consistency of afternoon rains, the extreme fire danger has passed and local fire restrictions have been tapered back.
The Gunnison Board of County Commissioners lifted the strict Stage 2 fire restrictions Tuesday and dropped back to Stage 1 regulations. They will re-evaluate the current Stage 1 restrictions next week with an eye to lifting the restrictions completely. “We dodged a big one,” admitted Gunnison Basin Wildfire Council chairman Dennis Spritzer to the commissioners. The U.S. Forest Service has dropped back to Stage 1 restrictions as well on its pubic lands. Because the feds chose to stick with Stage 1 restrictions, the county followed their lead. Based on a Forest Service press release, Stage 1 fire restrictions on BLM and USFS lands prohibit “building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except a fire within a permanent constructed fire grate in a developed (fee) campground; smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials; and operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order is also prohibited.” Campers are permitted to use “petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices that meet the fire underwriters’ specifications for safety.” The use of fireworks, flares or other incendiary devices is always prohibited on federal lands. There was consideration to lift the restrictions entirely, but Spritzer said it was better to be consistent with the other entities in the county and to be safe rather than sorry. “It’s to be cautious. We’ve had rains and some spotting rains as well and there are a few dry spots. The biggest reason is that we’ve been in the drought for so long,” he said. The Crested Butte Town Council lifted its emergency fire restrictions on Monday, returning to regular year-round fire regulations. “I really appreciate the community support and compliance during this time,” said Chief Marshal Tom Martin. “Everyone took it seriously and it paid off.” “The community should be very proud of itself for working together and doing everything it could to not put us in danger,” added Councilperson David Owen. Crested Butte Fire Chief Ric Ems said the recent rains received in the Crested Butte area have been very helpful, but overall for the county there is still some concern. “Yes we are all very fortunate to receive the rains we have gotten, but folks in other outlying areas of Gunnison County have not been so fortunate. Our Fire District is only 220 square miles of the approximately 3,100 square miles of Gunnison County,” he said. “I agree with the decision of Gunnison County staying consistent with the USFS and BLM,” said Ems. “All the agencies involved do not want to send a mixed message. Our community and the general public have done a very good job in supporting the fire restrictions and reporting violations when they see them. We are not out of the woods yet but hopefully the entire county will continue to get significant rain and we can remove the Stage 1 restrictions in a timely manner.” According to acting forest supervisor Sherry Hazelhurst, “We appreciate the public’s cooperation and support in respecting fire restrictions. Fire managers will continue to monitor weather and vegetation conditions across the area, discussing them with the counties and other partners to coordinate needed restrictions.” Every safety official in the county complimented the community for being diligent with the fire restrictions. Fireworks were kept in the closet, grills were shut down and people didn’t smoke outside. Last weekend, the Lacy Ranch south of Crested Butte burned some debris but that was inspected and allowed by the County Sheriff’s Office. “There is a mechanism in place which allows the sheriff and fire marshal to extend a permit on a special needs circumstance,” explained Gunnison County Sheriff Rick Besecker. “I personally inspected the area of the proposed burn, the nearby water resources and weather conditions, by recent history as well as the current conditions, and allowed the burn to take place within a specific time range. We absolutely appreciate the watchful eyes of our citizens and they let us know they saw the fire. Such awareness granted us early alerts and an upper hand on potential major fires during our extreme period.” The county will consider totally lifting the fire restrictions next week.