Fire ban likely to be lifted

Restrictions could be removed Thursday morning

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— Routt County's fire ban likely will be lifted Thursday.

Chuck Vale, the county's emergency management director, has scheduled a Thursday morning meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners to discuss the issue. Vale said he will recommend that commissioners lift the fire ban, which was enacted June 28 and restricted open flames such as campfires and brush fires in eight Northwest Colorado counties.

Vale said ongoing assessments of fire safety conditions and Tuesday-morning conference calls with Routt County Sheriff John Warner, county officials and regional staff from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service led to the recommendation.

"Last week we were right on the line (to lift the ban). This week we are just below the line. We all think the criteria is just not there for us to be in restriction," Vale said Tuesday. "We are going to recommend that everything comes out of restriction that is east of (Colorado) Highway 13."

Highway 13 runs south from Craig to Meeker and Rifle.

Restrictions will remain for most areas west of Craig, including Dinosaur National Monument, Vale said.

"That western part of Moffat is pretty darn dry," he said.

Warner said he is "absolutely on the same page" with Vale's recommendation but warned that open fires are still risky.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner encourages residents to exercise caution with all open fires, and he asks anyone with questions about fire safety to call county officials at 879-1090.

"People still need to be safe with their campfires and be aware of their surroundings," Warner said Tuesday. "We still have a bunch of dead trees in the area."

"Even though we lift the restriction, it's still very, very dry," Vale said.

Vale said fire restrictions will still apply on state-owned land, including state parks. Gov. Bill Owens ordered those restrictions, which county officials do not have the authority to override.

In addition to campfires and trash, brush or debris fires, Routt County's fire ban also restricted chainsaw use and welding.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said commissioners almost always follow recommendations from Vale and Warner.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we will lift the ban," she said.

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