With dry conditions and high temps, fire danger lurks over holiday weekend
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s going to reach near 90 degrees on Labor Day with no precipitation in the forecast, according to the National Weather Service. That makes for ideal conditions for wildfires.
With outdoor activities planned across Routt County for the Labor Day holiday weekend, it’s important to remember how prevalent fire danger is this time of year. And while there are no fire restrictions currently in place for the county, that doesn’t mean danger isn’t present.
Many of the major fires in previous summers — namely the Deep Creek Fire in 2017 and the Murphy and Irwin fires in 2018 — started around Labor Day.
In Routt County, officials have identified just one criterion as a possible concern for fire danger — the amount of moisture, or lack thereof, in fuels above 9,000 feet — according to David “Mo” DeMorat, Routt County’s emergency operations director.
“We had our weekly fire restriction call last Tuesday and the indicators do not warrant fire restrictions at this time,” DeMorat said. “Of course, the commissioners can decide on fire restrictions regardless of what the indicators say based on more qualitative observations and concerns, but I have not heard of any intent to do so at this time.”
Dry fuels with warm and windy weather conditions across the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland have led to widespread high or very high fire danger, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
• Scrape back dead grass and forest materials from your campfire site.
• Keep your campfire small and under control; make it only as big as you need it.
• Keep a shovel and a water container nearby to douse escaped embers.
• Do not park vehicles in tall dry grass, since hot tailpipes can cause fine fuels to catch on fire.
• Remember that any ignition – cigarettes, campfires, gunfire, vehicles – could be the cause of a wildland fire, as grass and other vegetation is dry and extremely flammable.
• Fireworks are not allowed on federal lands.
To report a wildland fire, call the interagency dispatch centers:
Routt National Forest: Craig Dispatch Center, 970-826-5037
Medicine Bow National Forest, Thunder Basin National Grassland: Casper Dispatch, 800-295-9952
Local Forest Service fire and fuels staff are advising National Forest visitors, and particularly campers and hunters, to use caution when building and maintaining campfires.
The top culprit of human-caused fires that require the attention of Forest Service fire crews is escaped campfires that are not fully extinguished.
Even as the days become shorter and temperatures trend downward, there will still be multiple periods where warm, dry, or windy conditions could align with receptive fuels, creating potential for explosive wildfire development and growth, according to the Forest Service.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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