Steamboat Springs With the wildfire danger relatively moderate in the upper Yampa Valley, Independence Day celebrants in Routt County are advised to take sensible precautions to protect against injury and property damage while enjoying legal fireworks.
As a rule of thumb, legal fireworks in Colorado are those that don’t explode and never leave the ground. But no fireworks of any kind, even those purchased at a local retailer, are allowed in federal lands, either the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management, or state parks.
Lynn Barclay, of the Northwest Fire Management Unit in Craig, issued a cautionary note Tuesday afternoon that fuel conditions in our part of the state are changing for the worse.
“No fire restrictions will be in effect for the Fourth of July weekend in Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson and Grand counties,” Barclay said in a written statement. “But the public is urged to be cautious with all outdoor fires. The vegetation is continuing to dry out and becoming more receptive to fire.”
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos confirmed Tuesday afternoon that fire danger in the forest lands here is not high, but that could change with another month of warm, dry weather.
“For the most part, we’re still in really good shape in the Routt National Forest as we head into the holiday weekend,” Voos said. “We still have traces of snow in the high country. Certainly, there is some higher fire danger to the west of Routt County.”
The good news is that Steamboat Springs hosts one of the biggest public fireworks displays in the state Friday evening at Howelsen Hill.
Routt County Director of Emergency Management Bob Struble put out a special plea this week urging people to keep children at a safe distance from home fireworks displays.
“The wildland fire partners of Routt County remind you that fireworks are not toys,” he said in a prepared statement this week. “It is illegal for persons under the age of 16 to purchase fireworks. A sparkler, usually considered safe, burns at a very high temperature and ignites clothing easily.”
Mary Dike, owner of the TNT Fireworks stand on the west side of downtown Steamboat, said her staff routinely check the photo IDs of fireworks purchasers. She echoed Struble’s advice about sparklers and suggested keeping a bucket of water nearby while using them.
“Place the sparklers in the bucket once they’ve been used,” Dike suggested. “Sparklers tend to get very hot and stay hot long after they are done. Stepping on a hot sparkler, or inadvertently touching someone with one could cause a serious injury.”
Fireworks that are permissible in Routt County also include fountains and ground spinners. Firecrackers, rockets (including bottle rockets), Roman candles and mortars are not legal anywhere in Colorado.
Dike offers fountains for sale that can cost as much as $100 or more. The least expensive fireworks are the snap-pops that retail for just 60 cents per box.
It goes without saying that all campfires should be built within existing fire rings, and coals should be cool to the touch before campfires are left behind. Barclay suggests that people building campfires should keep a bucket and shovel handy. She also advised that people avoid parking their vehicles in tall grass; hot tail pipes are a known ignition source.
The Western United States is relatively free of large wildfires early this season; the only major fire in Colorado, according to the Forest Service’s fire mapping system is the Eightmile Fire burning 500 acres in a rugged canyon southwest of Colorado Springs.
The Weather Service rates the chance of thunderstorms in Steamboat Springs at 20 percent Thursday and Friday with overnight temperatures dipping into the high 40s. The chance of showers goes away Saturday in time for the free Big Head Todd and the Monsters concert at Howelsen Hill at 6:30 p.m.
The National Weather service regional headquarters in Grand Junction has issued a fire weather watch for southwestern Colorado because of the possibility of dry lightning through the daytime and evening Thursday.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1