Sparks fly

Moffat County officials are warning residents of firework danger

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Colorado law permits the use of: Cylindrical and cone fountain, ground spinner, torch and colored fire, dipped stick and sparkler, snake and glow worm, trick noisemaker and certain other novelties.

Light all fireworks on cement or bare ground.

Some children will paint their names in the sky with firework sparklers next Wednesday.

Or wait in anticipation for a confetti of light to color the sky.

But, these typical Fourth of July firework traditions could increase the risk of fire damage.

With hot, dry, and windy conditions heating up Northwest Colorado, federal, state, and county officials are urging Moffat County residents to leave fireworks at home and observe fire safety measures.

The Moffat County Sheriffs Office, Bureau of Land Management, and State Forest Service are cooperatively gathering data to enact fire restrictions in the near future for Northwest Colorado.

Data collected includes moisture levels, anticipated weather conditions, and human activity at particular fire units.

Dinosaur National Monument and Browns Park Fish and Wildlife Refuge are expected to enact fire restrictions next week, according to the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit.

Although no fire restrictions are in effect for Moffat County, BLM fuels specialist Dale Beckerman said because of the recent drought in this area, a tiny spark could be detrimental to public land.

"We are at the point on the west side of our fire unit where an improperly discarded cigarette can spark a wild land fire," Beckerman said.

This is the reason Lynn Barclay, fire mitigation education specialist for the BLM, encourages residents to enjoy the annual professional firework show monitored by the Craig Fire Department and BLM, instead of their own.

Colorado state law permits the use of fireworks that stay on the ground such as sparklers, cone fountains, and ground spinners.

But, with the Wyoming border lying only 38 miles from Craig, some residents typically ditch the Colorado firework restrictions to purchase illegal fireworks, Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said.

"It is something we live with," Jantz said. "People have the right to buy them in Wyoming. But, if they bring the fireworks across the border back to Colorado they are subject to charges."

Those who posses or use illegal fireworks on public land are liable for the cost of putting out the fire and damages caused by the fire, and could face misdemeanor criminal charges.

Because fireworks emit sparks, Barclay is skeptical that any firework use is wise. She warns those who choose to use legal fireworks to put safety first.

"All fireworks should be lit on a cement pad or bare soil." Barclay said. "Stay clear of all grasses."

A wet spring provided Northwest Colorado with an abundance of grasses. These grasses have since dried out and become a perfect fuel for fire, she said.

"All fireworks are ignition sources," Barclay said. "People have no idea how quickly and intensely a grass fire can spread."

Last year, the Sheriff's Office reported several firework-ignited wildfires because of poor monitoring.

"People do not watch their fireworks closely enough," Jantz said, "It only takes a second to start a fire and cause land damage."

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos can be reached at 824-7031 or mkraftopoulos@craigdailypress.com

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