Thursday, August 31, 2000
Routt County Fire restrictions throughout the area will remain in place through the Labor Day weekend and maybe longer, county and forest officials said.
After discussing the impact of recent rainfall on fire danger, federal officials representing the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest decided Thursday not to lift a fire ban. The high volume of campers staying on federal, county and private land in Routt County this Labor Day weekend will be unable to light any fires aside from ones in enclosed stoves.
"We still are having some dry conditions in the forests," Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann. "Recent rain has helped. Our biggest concern is our resources. Most of our resources are off the forest assisting in firefighting efforts nationally."
Although rainfall has proved effective in lowering the risk of fires lately, the Forest Service is wary of weather reports that indicate another possible dry spell in the near future. Officials do not want to confuse people by lifting the ban when they might have to reinstate it soon after.
The Forest Service is expecting a large influx of tourists this weekend but is not planning on taking extra measures to patrol unlawful fires.
Germann said that she hadn't heard of any tickets issued for unlawful fires since the ban began June 19.
"We do appreciate the public's compliance with the ban," she said.
Other national forests in Colorado, however, are easing their fire restrictions. The White River and the Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests are allowing fires in certain campgrounds that have on-site managers.
The fires must be built in grates, grills or stands that are part of the campground. No portable fire containers are allowed, forest officials said Thursday.
Rocky Mountain National Park and the Great Sand Dunes National Monument last week began allowing campfires, charcoal broilers and wood-burning stoves in established recreation sites.
The Forest Service will look at the necessity of the fire restrictions in Routt-Medicine Bow Forest on a continuing basis, probably reevaluating it in as soon as one to two weeks, Germann said.
The county is similarly upholding the ban, at least through the weekend. Routt County Sheriff John Warner described the rainfall as "spotty and deceiving."
"We're extremely concerned as far as the dryness goes," he said.
The county ban began two days after the federal ban. It addresses fires set on all private and county land in Routt County. Violators of the ban may be fined as much as $100.
There is no similar fire ban on state land, however. Fires are allowed in designated fire rings on campsites.
State parks like Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake are booked solid for the weekend, and officials there are keeping watch for illegal fires. The state parks employees will be patrolling the campsites as well.
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