Open fires still allowed in county | SteamboatToday.com
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Open fires still allowed in county

Kristin Bjornsen

— Although fire danger is high in Northwest Colorado, no fire restrictions are in place. That could change if the hot, dry weather continues.

In the past two weeks, lightning has sparked several small fires in Routt County, but previous moisture and prompt responses by firefighters have kept the sparks from spreading.

“We’ve been having about a fire a day across the county,” Routt County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said. “But a monsoon pattern is predicted for the next four or five days, which has lessened the concern for a large fire.”

Because of that, fire managers have not restricted open fires for Northwest Colorado. The managers represent Routt, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Grand and Jackson counties as well as land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management in Northwest Colorado. The fire managers meet once a week to reassess fire danger and the use of restrictions.

Along with predicted monsoon weather, small periodic rainstorms in the past few weeks have helped mitigate the fire risk.

“We haven’t had a general soaking, but the isolated thunderstorms have brought enough moisture that it’s not necessary to put up fire restrictions,” said Rob Sexton, public information specialist with the Routt National Forest. “That could change depending on how much rain we get, or don’t get, in the upcoming weeks.”

The fire danger can change particularly quickly because of years of regional drought. June’s wet weather wasn’t sufficient to resaturate land, plants and reservoirs parched by several years of meager rainfall. The absence of such reserves makes the region less resilient to short dry periods.

“With the prolonged drought, situations can change rapidly, and the brief respite we’ve had could end,” Sexton said. “So we’re asking people to be careful with any fires and not to leave any fires unattended.”

–To reach Kristin Bjornsen, call 879-1502.


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