Steamboat Springs Despite Monday's rainstorms, the U.S. Forest Service is issuing fire and smoking restrictions that will go into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Routt National Forest. The restrictions come in response to high temperatures, dry conditions and a dwindling snow pack, which officials say are not counterbalanced by the recent rain.
The Routt County Commissioners also are deciding today whether to institute a countywide fire restriction that would go into effect at the same time as the Forest Service's. It would apply to all private and state-owned land outside city limits.
"I would guess that it will carry clear on through until the fall, unless we get a huge amount of moisture," said Chuck Vale, Routt County's emergency services manager.
The city, county and Forest Service are working together to make people in the Yampa Valley more aware of the high potential for fires. Recent limited rainfall hasn't reduced the danger, Vale said.
"We're asking for everybody's cooperation," said Routt County Undersheriff Dan Taylor. "We've seen what a harmless little campfire started on the Front Range can do."
There already have been more wildfires this year than in the past, Taylor said. Last year, Routt County didn't have any fire restrictions until October, and two years ago the restrictions went into effect in July. The need for earlier fire restrictions was prompted by the early runoff and peaking of the river, Forest Services spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
"Everything's tracking three weeks ahead of schedule," Germann said. "The key point is moisture and the recent rains are not making a long-term impact."
The Forest Service's restrictions are effective throughout all elevations of the forests in northwestern Colorado.
Along with fires, fireworks are never allowed in national forests. The punishment for shooting fireworks on federal land is a $5,000 fine and possible jail time, Germann said.
If the commissioners pass the countywide fire restriction, exempt activities will follow the Forest Service guidelines. The restricted activities include:
n Building, maintaining or using fires of any sorts in undesignated areas.
n Smoking outside of vehicles, buildings, a developed recreation site or an area cleared of all flammable material.
n Operating a chain saw without an approved spark arrestor, shovel and extinguisher.
n Welding or operating a torch with an open flame within 10 feet diameter of flammable material.
n Use of explosives with fuse blasting caps.
People with fire permits and those who burn irrigation ditches completely surrounded by irrigated farmlands are exempt from the fire restriction, according to a report from the Routt County Wildland Fire Council. Additionally, anyone performing an official duty of organized rescue and any residential fires within gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces or charcoal grills also are exempt from the restrictions.
The city will allow fireworks within city limits, but they will take precautions to make it safe, Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Bob Struble said. The city also is allowing residents with permits to be exempt from the restrictions.
People violating the burn policy can be fined up to $100 for a first offense, up to $200 for a second offense and they can receive a maximum fine determined by a judge for a third offense. Taylor warns, though, that people can be charged with arson if they set a fire knowing that there's a likelihood it could get out of control.
"It's extremely dry for this time of year and we don't want to lose any homes," Taylor said.