Fire bans lifted

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— Routt County commissioners lifted fire restrictions on state and private land Tuesday and are expected to lift restrictions on most federal lands today.

Despite the easing of restrictions, officials warned fire danger is still present.

"We felt that the ability of intelligent people having intelligent fires is out there," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

"It's an appropriate thing to do based on the environmental conditions we're seeing right now, but again, it's not the time to be careless," he said. "The ability for fires to be catastrophic has not gone away."

Fire restrictions were lifted from federal land in all of Northwest Colorado, except for Dinosaur National Monument, Browns Park Fish and Wildlife Refuge and Bureau of Land Management public lands west of Colorado Highway 13 in Moffat County, said Lynn Barclay, fire education mitigation specialist with Craig Interagency Dispatch.

Restrictions in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest are scheduled to be lifted today or tomorrow, Barclay said. In places where the bans are not lifted today, the issue will be revisited again on Thursday, she said.

Barclay said there is continued concern for wildfire and said that on Friday, a dropped cigarette caused a fire south of Rangely that burned about 15 acres before it was extinguished.

"We want people to enjoy themselves on public lands but to just be conscious of what they're doing with fire," Barclay said.

Barclay encouraged hikers, hunters and other people who build fires on federal land to build campfires only in cleared areas, to never leave a campfire unattended and to have a bucket, shovel and water source available in case a campfire gets out of hand.

Fire bans were put in place July 21. Last year, fire restrictions began about a month earlier and ended about a month later, said Routt County Emergency Services Director Chuck Vale.

There are seven criteria that fire officials consider when deciding whether to recommend fire bans.

The criteria are moisture content of two types of fuel, the amount of energy released by burning fires, the availability of fire suppression resources, drought conditions, weather and the chance of having a human-caused fire.

When the bans began in July, five of those criteria had been met. Now, Vale said that the only sign that fire was a serious possibility was the area's persisting drought. In the past 14 days, areas across the county have received between 1.3 and 2.1 inches of rain, Vale said.

"We still have the potential for large fire growth," Vale said. "When you look at a lot of the conditions, and you look at the forest age, the forest health and the homes, this is going to happen again."

Garfield and Eagle counties lifted their fire bans on state and county lands last week, and Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties should follow by lifting their bans today, Vale said.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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