Don't put away those grills just yet

Fire ban does not include barbecues at private residences

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— There is no need to put away the grill for the summer because of fire bans imposed in Routt County and the rest of the state.

The statewide ban issued Monday prohibits open fires, fireworks and charcoal grills in parks and other areas in the state. Gov. Bill Owens said Tuesday outdoor cooking grills may be used in urban areas.

Still, that left some question on whether residents in Routt County qualified as living in an urban area and whether people living outside of cities and towns can still legally have outdoor barbecues.

Amy Sampson of the governor's office said barbecues may go on as long as they are at private residences.

"The best way to explain it is that if it's at a private residence, (charcoal grills) are allowed," Sampson said.

The ban also prohibits fires on all state-owned land and echoes Routt County's fire ban for private land, implemented Monday. That county ban outlawed all open fires unless the sheriff authorizes it. However, neither the county nor the state ban applies to the Routt National Forest.

U.S. Forest Service officials put a "Stage 1" fire ban on the Routt forest last week, prohibiting all open campfires. However, enclosed stoves, portable camp stoves and fires in built-in stoves in designated camping areas of the forest are allowed, unlike the state ban.

Confusingly, campers at Steamboat Lake State Park, for example, aren't allowed to build fires in built-in camp stoves because of the state fire ban. However, they can build a stove fire down the road in the Hahn's Peak Campground in the Routt National Forest.

Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Pipher said that option might not be available for long.

"There is a possibility that we will move into a Stage 2 fire ban in the next couple of weeks," she said.

Traditionally, the Stage 2 ban prohibits all open flames in the forest. However, there is some freedom for local officials to allow some flames, such as camp stoves, Pipher said.

Unless a large fire ignites, it's unlikely the Routt National Forest will see a Stage 3 ban, which would close the land to the public. The San Isabel and the Pike national forests in Colorado went into Stage 3 bans because of the wildfires burning there.

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