Fire restrictions lifted in Routt National Forest
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – After months battling the Middle Fork Fire, the Routt County Office of Emergency Management and U.S. Forest Service have rescinded fire restrictions in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland.
Until Tuesday, those using any kind of flammable products in the forest could be issued a summons to court, and while such behavior will no longer be met with criminal penalty, officials are still asking anyone creating sparks of any kind to use caution.
“We are still in a drought and there’s not a lot of moisture content in the snow,” said David “Mo” DeMorat, Routt County emergency operations director.
The decision to rescind fire restrictions came when Routt National Forest met only two of the seven requirements to place land under fire restrictions — live fuel moisture content at 90% or less in sagebrush and signs of a drought still apparent.
While the forest only met two of the qualifications, two other categories were close to being met: fires in the area impacting available resources and a significant number of human-caused fires, DeMorat said.
The Middle Fork Fire has been Routt County’s only major fire, but because the primary efforts on it have come from Forest Service firefighters also fighting fires in the Front Range, Routt National Forest was on the cusp of meeting qualifications for required restrictions.
“That was a ’yes’ for our federal partners but a ’no’ for us in the county,” he said.
Cheryl Dalton, spokeswoman for the office of emergency management, echoed DeMorat’s concerns and said in a written statement, “Rescinding the existing fire restrictions does not mean there is no fire danger; it just means the extreme conditions have somewhat moderated. We urge outdoor enthusiasts to remain cautious and continue fire safety practices when working or recreating on public and private lands.”
Forest land no longer under restrictions includes land in Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties in Northwest Colorado.
Fire officials are still advising people to never leave a campfire unattended, as the wind can blow sparks and cause a wildfire.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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