Routt National Forest goes under Stage 2 fire restrictions

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Heat to continue through the weekend

Hot, dry weather is expected to continue through the weekend for Steamboat Springs and greater Routt County. Daytime highs will remain in the low 90s. A chance of afternoon thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday could bring lightning and gusty winds, but little to no rainfall is expected, according to the National Weather Service.

Red flag warning conditions are likely, meaning conditions exist for the rapid growth of any new or existing wildfires.

As expected, the U.S. Forest Service on Monday enacted Stage 2 fire restrictions on the Routt National Forest. Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek are expected to follow suit in the coming days.

The announcement for the Routt National Forest, made Monday afternoon, prohibits virtually all open flames, including campfires, stove fires and use of charcoal grills on national forest lands. A lone exception is the use of petroleum-fueled stoves, grills and lanterns, provided vegetation has been cleared at least three feet on all sides.

Also prohibited under Stage 2 restrictions:

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building

• Possessing or using fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices, including tracer ammunition

• Using explosives, including targets that could explode

• Using any internal or external combustion engines (such as chainsaws) without a properly working spark arrester

• Possessing or using a vehicle off road, except when parking in areas cleared of vegetation

• Welding or operating an acetylene or torch with an open flame

Violating any of the restrictions is punishable by a fine of as much as $5,000 and/or six months in jail, according to a news release from the Forest Service. Anyone who negligently or willfully starts a wildfire also could be held responsible for the costs associated with that wildfire.

“With dry conditions persisting and the recent start of large fires on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland and within the region, it is important that we take additional precautions to reduce the potential for more new fires,” Routt National Forest deputy forest supervisor Rick Cooksey said in the release. “The public is reminded to do their part to reduce the potential for fires by following these restrictions while enjoying their public lands.”

The Bureau of Land Management last week enacted Stage 2 restrictions on its lands throughout Northwest Colorado. Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble will appear before the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to recommend its adoption of Stage 2 restrictions. Fire officials in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek similarly are preparing to enact Stage 2 restrictions.

Struble hinted last week that Stage 3 restrictions could be necessary if the area begins to experience wildfires and firefighting resources become stretched thin. Stage 3 restrictions effectively close public lands until fire conditions decrease.

No new wildfires had been reported in Routt County as of Monday afternoon, Struble said. But with dry lightning storms in the forecast for the next couple of days, it may be only a matter of time.

“I hope it doesn’t happen, but with the lightning coming through ... we can’t control Mother Nature,” Struble said, adding that requests for firefighting resources already are strained because of some of the significant fires being fought on the Front Range. Getting additional resources allocated for this corner of the state may be difficult, he said.

For more information about the Stage 2 fire restrictions on the Routt National Forest, call the Hahns Peak-Bears Ranger District office in Steamboat Springs at 970-870-2299.

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