Helicopters used to battle wildfire west of Craig
Craig Joe Moylan
Craig Daily Press
BLM officials announced Wednesday morning that Stage 2 fire restrictions would go into effect on BLM land at midnight Friday for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, which includes Routt, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Larimer, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Summit counties.
Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit all open fires that could throw an ember, including campfires, charcoal grills and wood and coal-burning stoves, BLM Fire Management Officer Colt Mortenson said Wednesday. The ban also prohibits open fires in designated public areas with fire rings or grates. The only exception to the Stage 2 restrictions are liquid or gas-fueled stoves, Mortenson said.
The restriction is confined to federal lands managed by the BLM in the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit.
“I believe the public understands that we have now moved into extreme resource availability and extreme fire conditions, so no open fires, period,” Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said Wednesday.
Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Wednesday that he will ask the Routt County Board of Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting to upgrade fire restrictions to Stage 2.
“We had a conference call with all the agencies involved in the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, and everyone agreed the criteria to move to Stage 2 has been met or exceeded,” he said. “Everybody is moving in that direction.”
He said Routt and Medicine Bow national forests are expected to be placed under the upgraded restrictions early next week.
Moffat County fire updates
Jantz said Wednesday evening that the Sand Fire about 10 miles west of Craig has been extinguished.
Fire investigators think the wildfire, which started at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday off U.S. Highway 40 near mile marker 79, was ignited by a cigarette. They continue to estimate the size of the fire at about 2,000 acres.
Jantz hopes the Sand Fire is enough to convince any remaining skeptics about the serious fire danger in the county.
“This is no joke anymore, we’re not joking,” Jantz said. “Throwing cigarette butts or hot items from vehicles, which is what appears to have happened, are things we don’t do anymore.”
Meanwhile, the Willow Fire burning near Slater is estimated at 800 acres, about 500 of which are in Moffat County, according to Jantz.
Jantz said reports out of the BLM’s Rawlins, Wyo., district indicate firefighters have not reached any level of containment on the Willow Fire, which started near Baggs, Wyo., and crossed the state line into Slater.
In the wake of recent wildfires, Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner reiterated the public’s role in fire prevention.
“We (commissioners) want to re-emphasize the fire danger and the fire ban in place and remind everyone to be extremely careful of whatever they do outside that may cause a fire,” said Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner. “It’s going to be a long fire season.”
The Steamboat Today contributed to this report.