Our View: Help prevent wildfires | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Help prevent wildfires

The afternoon thunderstorms that have brought rain and cooler temperatures to Routt County during the past several days certainly provided welcome relief from the persistent hot, dry conditions. But it would be premature to assume we’re out of the woods when it comes to wildfire danger.

At least six weeks remain in the peak wildfire season, and local officials have noted that the conditions are reminiscent of 2002, when the Hinman and Burn Ridge fires scorched 35,000 acres of Routt National Forest. Numerous other fires burned throughout the county and region that summer.

“It’s getting hotter and drier,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said last week. “We are right in line with everything that occurred in 2002.”

While we’ve thus far been spared such large-scale fires, the nine smaller fires that have ignited in the national forest and other fires that have burned on private land and elsewhere during the past month and a half underscore the need to be vigilant in obeying ongoing fire restrictions.

Last week, the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit enacted a fire ban for all county, state and federal lands in Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties. The Routt County Board of Commissioners expanded that ban to include private landowners.

The ban prohibits:

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– Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire, except within approved fire grates at developed campgrounds or within fully enclosed stoves, charcoal grills and stoves using pressurized liquid or gas

– Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, building or developed recreation site or a cleared area of at least 3 feet in diameter

– Operating a chainsaw, except those with approved spark arrestors

– Using an acetylene welder, except in cleared areas at least 10 feet in diameter

– Fireworks, explosives and any other incendiary devices

Routt County residents have ample reasons to work to prevent wildfires. Some of our homes are in areas increasingly susceptible to fire, and many others live in homes that border such areas. A lifetime’s worth of memories and possessions can be destroyed in minutes by a wildfire, and such blazes often leave little, if any, time to prepare. But homeowners can prepare now to prevent such a painful and costly outcome. Local agencies and Internet resources such as Firewise.org can provide advice on building defensible spaces around your homes.

Even if you consider your home safe from the threat of wildfire, the devastation wrought by fire still can have a powerful impact. Survey after survey has shown that residents and visitors treasure the Yampa Valley because of its natural beauty. When we consider the significance of tourism to our local economy, it becomes essential that we do what we can to protect our surroundings.

Call 911 if you see smoke rising from the valley floor or within a pocket of trees in our forests. Avoid lighting that unnecessary campfire or leftover firework. Look into fire-resistant landscaping and defensible spaces for your home or business. Help protect the beauty we can’t afford to take for granted in the Yampa Valley.