Drought persists; some burns allowed in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Drought persists; some burns allowed in Routt County

— Despite restrictions on fires and burning in Routt County, residents might notice a few agricultural burns taking place.

Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins has issued to local ranchers seven permits that have allowed for limited burning.

"It's essential for their livelihood," Wiggins said.

Most of the permits have allowed ranchers to clear the ditches used to carry water to their crops. In one case, a rancher was allowed to burn some dead vegetation in a field that was preventing grass from growing. No permits for recreational fires or open burns have been issued, Wiggins said.

"There are no permits for them," he said.

Before issuing a permit, Wiggins said, he inspects the sites and offers guidelines for the burns. The information then is relayed to the local fire department and the Routt County Emergency Management department.

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Low snowpack, dry conditions at lower elevations and unusually warm weather prompted the Routt County Board of Commissioners to enact fire restrictions April 18. The restrictions apply to unincorporated parts of Routt County excluding federally owned lands. Restrictions were enacted after about a dozen agricultural burns got out of control and turned into wildfires. Under the restrictions, agricultural burns are banned as well as campfires, unless they are at designated campgrounds or recreational sites.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Wednesday that there are no plans to lift the restrictions.

"We're looking at all the long-range indicators, and it's not looking good: warmer and drier," Struble said.

He said the fire danger has not gone away, and the drought actually is intensifying.

"It's definitely intensifying as you go toward Utah," Struble said. "It's drying up fast."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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