County fire restrictions set to be lifted

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— A countywide fire ban for landowners in unincorporated Routt County likely will be lifted early next week, officials said Tuesday.

In a conference call with other local and federal officials in Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties Tuesday morning, Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said the consensus was to lift fire restriction bans in all of the counties except Moffat. But it takes time to lift the bans, Vale said. In Routt County, for example, the Routt County Board of Commissioners must first approve the repeal. Vale is scheduled to meet with the commissioners Tuesday.

The countywide ban prohibits a myriad of activities, from smoking - except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area of at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or clear of all flammable material - to using explosives requiring fuses or blasting caps. The Routt County Sheriff's Office may grant exceptions to the ban.

The risk of wildfire has lessened in recent weeks because of frequent rain, and Vale said officials almost agreed to lift the bans during their conference call last week.

Despite the improving conditions, Vale continues to stress fire safety and noted another spell of dry, hot weather is expected to move into the area today.

Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the dry weather would be short-lived with more frequent rain moving back into the region during the weekend.

Fire restrictions in Routt National Forest still are in place, and spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said there have not been discussions to lift those. Fires may not be built anywhere in the forest except established fire pits in campgrounds.

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