Fireworks banned, fires OK

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Camping trips to the wide-open meadows or thick tree stands of a national forest offer great Fourth of July experiences -- just be sure to leave the colorful fireworks at home.

Nearly all roads and campgrounds in the Routt National Forest will open for the weekend, and forest managers are reminding residents and tourists that when they venture onto public lands, they are not allowed to bring fireworks.

In many Northwest Colorado areas, outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy campfires because fire restrictions are not in place in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, among others.

Fire restrictions are in place for counties including Garfield, Rio Blanco, Eagle and Summit, so people should call ahead to the areas they plan to visit to learn about fire restrictions.

Rain combined with lower temperatures has kept the fire danger to a moderate rating across Northwest Colorado, said Mike Rieser, fire management officer with the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit.

Still, dry thunderstorms with lightning carry the potential for starting fires.

Similarly, even in areas where fires are allowed, residents should take care.

"We still need people to be careful with fires. Some have started in what looked like green, lush grass," Rieser said. "Conditions change quickly in Northwest Colorado, and a few days of dry, warm, windy weather can put us back in the high fire danger rating."

When starting a fire, campers should use existing or established campfire rings and clear brush around the rings before starting a fire. Ensure campfires are completely out before leaving by dousing them with water, and always have a shovel on hand.

Most of the Routt National Forest will be open in time for the holiday weekend.

Buffalo Pass will be open to Summit Lake, but large snowdrifts block the road, making through-travel impossible. Granite Campground is not yet open because of snow and mud.

Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears Pass is open but will not have drinking water. Water is available at nearby Walton and Dumont campgrounds. Similarly, Hahn's Peak Lake Campground is open without drinking water, which is available at the Seedhouse and Hinman campgrounds.

All of the campgrounds and roads on the Yampa Ranger District and the Parks Ranger District are open, but there is no drinking water at Big Creek Lakes Campground. Trails leading to the Continental Divide Trail and into wilderness areas are slowly opening as snow melts.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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