No fire restrictions for 4th | SteamboatToday.com

No fire restrictions for 4th

Susan Cunningham

Campers in Routt County, get your marshmallow-roasting sticks out. There are no fire restrictions in the county for the holiday weekend.

By the Fourth of July, there could be restrictions in place for the Jones Hole area of Dinosaur National Monument and possibly for campgrounds in the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, said Mike Rieser, fire management officer for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Organization.

“Routt County is quite green, and we’re not anticipating any fire problems for a while in Routt County,” Rieser said.

The landscape changes west of Craig, he said, where conditions are drying out. In those areas, there have been some lightning-caused fires, including four or five new starts caused by lightning Tuesday morning.

Also in the area west of Craig, there is a bumper crop, or an unusually large amount, of annual grasses, a result of fall and spring moisture. When those grasses dry out, there is the potential for a fairly significant fire season, Rieser said.

In Routt County, the monsoon weather pattern that comes in every summer about the Fourth of July will be the force determining whether the county sees fire restrictions later in the year, Rieser said.

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The monsoon lasts about six to eight weeks each summer and typically brings increasing moisture in the high country, as well as rain and lightning in the lower country. If it happens to bring a dry pattern in the high country, things could dry quickly.

Also, because the area has been in a drought pattern for the past five or six years, trees and other vegetation still are drier than usual. Trees hold recent moisture in their roots, and the part above ground is drier and more flammable.

For at least the next two weeks, however, Rieser predicts that fire restrictions will not be put in place for Routt County.

In four of the past six years, Rieser said, there have been fire restrictions in place by the Fourth of July weekend.

Officials evaluate conditions every week to determine whether the criteria for putting fire restrictions in place are met. Restrictions are put in place through coordinated efforts of federal, state and local fire officials.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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