Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale says wildfire conditions this year are similar to those in 2002.
Steamboat Springs Private landowners have been included in a countywide fire ban that went into effect this morning.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the ban, which joins a previously announced ban by the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit for all county, state and federal lands within Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties. Both bans went into effect at 12:01 a.m. today. The ban will remain in effect indefinitely.
"It's getting drier and hotter," said Chuck Vale, Routt County emergency management director.
Vale said conditions this year are very similar to 2002, when wildfires ravaged much of Colorado, including Routt County, and other Western states.
"We are right on line with everything that occurred in 2002," Vale said.
The ban prohibits:
n Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire, except in designated campgrounds, picnic areas or developed recreational sites.
n 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.
n Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark-arresting device and a fire extinguisher and shovel on hand.
n Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame, except in an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material within 10 feet of the torch.
n Using explosives requiring fuses or blasting caps.
Most exceptions to the ban must be granted by the Routt County Sheriff's Office.
"Once we implement these fire restrictions, anyone who wants to do any open burning needs to get a permit from the Routt County sheriff," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "Current permits are no longer valid.
Sheriff Gary Wall said permits would be issued conservatively.
"I'll be very cautious," Wall said.
A first offense for violating the ban carries a fine of not more than $100. The fine for a second offense is not more than $200. Third or subsequent offenses will carry the maximum fine permitted by law.
County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said it is important to pay attention to the little things that could start a fire, and not just the obvious ones. She used smoking as an example.
"That's something people just don't think about," Mitsch Bush said.
Stahoviak said it also is important to stress to tourists and visitors how susceptible Routt County is to wildfires. Sometimes people see green grass and don't realize how dry it really is, Stahoviak said.
For more information on the fire restrictions, contact Vale at 846-3912 or visit www.co.routt.co.us/emergency.
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