Officials in Northwest Colorado recommending fire restrictions as wildfire danger persists |

Officials in Northwest Colorado recommending fire restrictions as wildfire danger persists

Scott Franz

Grant Birkinbine stocks the shelves inside the TNT Fireworks stand in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday morning. Several counties and municipalities in Northwest Colorado will consider enacting Stage 1 fire restrictions next week.

— With no rain expected anytime soon and the potential for wildfires still high in this part of the state, several Northwest Colorado counties and municipalities are likely to start enacting Stage 1 fire restrictions early next week.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will consider adopting the restrictions July 2.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said that officials with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are aiming to have Stage 1 restrictions in place at about the same time.

Municipalities also are likely to follow suit.

"When we look across the state, we’re probably in one of the better conditions, but it’s dry out there," Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Mel Stewart said Tuesday morning after he participated in a conference call with fire managers from Routt and six other nearby counties to evaluate the fire danger and plan ahead.

When fire officials evaluate whether to recommend restrictions, they look at seven criteria ranging from drought indicators to the moisture content in light fire fuels, such as sagebrush.

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Stewart said that as of June 21, Routt County was meeting four of the seven indicators, a milestone he said typically warrants the recommendation for Stage 1 restrictions.

Stage 1 restrictions in Routt County would prohibit agricultural burns, burning trash and any campfires that are not in designated campgrounds or recreational sites.

Struble said that although personal fireworks are prohibited on federal lands under the Stage 1 restrictions, fire chiefs will decide whether to allow them in their districts outside of the federal land.

The restrictions also would prevent people from operating chain saws without an approved spark-arresting device.

The county’s weighing of fire restrictions comes as the potential for wildfires here continues to increase.

Steamboat has not received any measurable precipitation this month, and this week’s forecast calls for more dry, hot and windy weather.

In a news release, the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit wrote that the abundant moisture the area received near the end of spring “provided a brief reprieve” but “live and dead fuel moistures are quickly returning to a condition that will support large fire growth.”

As the fire restrictions are weighed, the fate of Steamboat’s annual July Fourth fireworks show also remains uncertain.

Stewart said he plans to meet Wednesday with local firefighting staff members as well as the organizers of the show at Howelsen Hill to discuss fire conditions and gauge whether the show will go on.

"Hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ll make a decision," he said. "I’m still evaluating it."

The Denver Post reported Tuesday that several cities on the Front Range and Eastern Plains, including Colorado Springs and Monument, have canceled their July Fourth fireworks shows because of the growing danger of wildfires.

Steamboat’s Fourth of July fireworks were canceled last year because of high fire danger and replaced by a Beatles cover band at Howelsen Hill.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

Stage 1 fire restrictions

Stage 1 restrictions in Routt County prohibit:

■ Building a fire except at designated recreation sites. Burning of debris, irrigation ditches and vegetation also is prohibited.

■ Smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

■ Explosives, welding and torches. Engines on things such as chain saws are required to have a spark-arresting device correctly installed.

Violating the fire restrictions is considered a Class 2 petty offense and can result in fines of as much as $600. Anyone with questions about the restrictions can call the Office of Emergency Management at 970-870-5551.