Our View: Fire and flows
On a day when Steamboat Springs and Routt County are experiencing record-high temperatures, and wildfires have begun cropping up around the Western Slope, city and county officials along with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management enacted Stage 1 fire restrictions, which went into effect at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The decision was made earlier than in previous years, but with extreme drought conditions, low water levels, a depleted snowpack and scorching heat, it was time.
And now it is imperative that locals and visitors heed these restrictions, and so we’re providing a list highlighting the regulations below.
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire is prohibited. This includes barbecues, grills and portable braziers. Fires can be constructed in permanent fire pits or fire grates within developed recreation sites.
• Smoking is prohibited 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.
• Chainsaws without a spark arrester properly installed and in effective working order are prohibited. A chemical pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2A must be kept with the operator and one round point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches must be readily available for use.
At issue: Routt County is in an extreme drought, water flows are down, and it’s wildfire season.
Our View: It’s time for locals and visitors to practice fire safety, be prepared for what could be a busy wildfire season and practice river etiquette during what’s expected to be a short recreational season on the Yampa River.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
• People are prohibited from welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame except in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter and in possession of a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of at least 2A.
• Using an explosive like fireworks is prohibited.
• Within the city limits, recreational fires at private residences are allowed but only with a valid permit from Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue until Stage 2 restrictions are in place.
These restrictions will remain in place until they are rescinded or expanded, and conditions can change daily. With that in mind, area residents are encouraged to sign up for Routt County’s emergency alert system at RouttCountyAlerts.com. As of last week, only 21% of county residents were receiving these alerts, and local emergency responders would like to see that number reach 100%, so there’s work to be done.
In addition to preparing for a busy wildfire fire season, our area is also dealing with low water flows on the Yampa River, which opened late last week to tubing when it dipped below 700 cubic feet per second. The season is expected to be short, and there are already a lot of people out on the river —tubing, fishing, rafting, kayaking and paddleboarding.
When it comes to tubing, we encourage locals and visitors to use one of town’s outfitters when heading out on the river. They can educate people on where to put in and take out on the river, and they provide a convenient shuttle back to your launch site, so you don’t have to ride the bus and figure out what to do with your store-bought tube, which can’t be taken on the free bus and usually ends up in an overflowing trash can or along the river bank. And by doing business with one of the tubing companies, you’re supporting a local business.
The tubing season is expected to be abbreviated due to historically low flows, so we remind people to respect recreational closures when they do occur, and in the meantime, enjoy the river while it’s open and respect other users.
Here are some tips from Friends of the Yampa on how to respect the river when you’re tubing.
• No dogs for the safety of the river and the dogs themselves.
• No littering. Snack packaging or bottles and lids are best kept safe in a dry bag to prevent losing them throughout the journey. In addition, wear river-smart apparel and don’t wear flip flops, which often end up lost and at the bottom of the river.
• No styrofoam coolers. Instead use a dry bag.
• No glass.
• Respect others on the banks and in the river, and give space to those kayaking, fishing or paddleboarding. And pull off the river in designated spots.
• No alcohol. Save the sipping until the end of your float.
The city also passed a new ordinance banning all disposable containers on the river, including cans, plastic bottles, glass and bags. Tubers can bring a reusable container like a water bottle, metal growler or similar beverage holder, which should be securely attached to their tube.
So our message is really very simple — follow fire restrictions, respect the river and be good stewards of the environment. This is a tough season, but we can all get through it if we follow these rules.
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