Steamboat Springs The season for summer campfires has come to an end. Routt County commissioners on Monday approved fire restrictions for all private and state lands.
The restrictions, which include bans on all outdoor fires and smoking except in an enclosed vehicle or building, went into effect at noon Monday and will be in effect until emergency managers lift them.
Restrictions were put into place for Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests at 8 a.m. Monday.
Fire restrictions also should be in effect for Jackson and Grand counties, as well as for all federal lands in Northwest Colorado, by the end of this week, said Lynn Barclay, fire information officer for Craig Interagency Dispatch. Restrictions in Rio Blanco County were put in place last week.
Moffat County will not restrict fires on private and state-owned land this week, but will assess the situation again next week, Barclay said.
The decision to restrict fires came last Thursday after a conference call including federal land managers, fire officials and sheriffs in Routt, Moffat, Grand and Jackson counties.
Seven criteria are used to determine whether restrictions are necessary: moisture content of dead and live fuels, energy released by fires, availability of fire suppression resources, a higher than normal occurrence of human-caused fires, the likelihood that adverse weather conditions will continue and indications of drought according to the Palmer Drought Index.
"All of our criteria have been met," Emergency Services Director Chuck Vale said to county commissioners Monday.
"The real safety issue in my mind is do we have enough resources?" Vale said. "When we get multiple fires burning... that's when it's risky. There are just not enough resources."
Fires started by a dropped cigarette near Hayden and by two escaped campfires in Grand County are all reminders that fire danger in the area is high, said Vale.
Vale said these restrictions are about a month later than last year, when restrictions were put in place June 10. He also said that although it may seem like the area has received moisture during the past few days, the amount that has fallen during the past few storms has been less than half an inch.
Vale said that counties in the northwest corner of the state had been working together to put restrictions in place simultaneously and reduce confusion for the public.
"This is an incredible thing for us to all get together," Vale said. "We've worked hard in this corner of the state to talk to each other, to try to agree."
Diann Ritschard, public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, said even with legal fires, people should always be careful with the fires that are allowed in designated camping spots, making sure to watch a burning fire and to put out fires completely before leaving the area.
"It's hard enough to deal with the lightning-caused fires, (much less) with the human caused fires," Ritschard said.
Violating fire restrictions on federal lands could result in a fine of $5,000 and six months in jail. Violating fire restrictions within the county could result in a fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and the maximum penalty allowed under law for the third offense.