Without more moisture, Routt County could see fire restrictions later this month
July 4, 2017
S'mores season could end early this year for some campers in Northwest Colorado if it doesn't start raining soon.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said Monday Routt County currently meets two of the seven criteria for fire restrictions.
Agencies usually start recommending some level of restrictions when four of the criteria are met.
"If I had to speculate, if we go two more weeks without moisture, we'll be at Stage 1 (fire restrictions) or close to it," Stewart said.
The current weather forecast doesn't show a big chance for a downpour in Steamboat anytime soon.
The National Weather Service is calling for just a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Friday. Otherwise, the forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid 80s through Monday.
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Stage 1 fire restrictions would prohibit campfires outside of established campgrounds and designated recreation areas.
That means backpackers and campers in dispersed campsites, such as those on Buffalo Pass, could not start campfires.
While July usually marks the start of monsoonal moisture in the region, there is usually a transition period filled with some drier thunderstorms.
Stewart said it is this time that concerns firefighters because of the potential for lightning-caused wildfires and high winds.
Fire officials are holding conference calls at the start of each week to discuss the regional fire danger and decide whether restrictions are appropriate.
Stewart said there's a chance Rio Blanco and Moffat counties could enact fire restrictions as soon as next week based on the last assessment conducted on Monday.
He said Rio Blanco appeared to be the area that might be closest to enacting fire restrictions.
Routt County checks off two of the seven boxes that lead to fire restrictions.
One reason the area is nudging closer to them is because of the 270-acre Mill Creek Fire and the firefighting resources it has tied up.
Routt also meets a criteria for fire restrictions that measures how hot a fire might burn if it got into certain fuels.
Steamboat cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show because of ongoing fire danger.
As thousands of people watched the holiday parade in downtown Steamboat on Tuesday morning, dozens of firefighters were working to try to contain the Mill Creek Fire burning in California Park near Hayden.
Smoke could still be seen behind Sleeping Giant on Tuesday, and it could be smelled in downtown Steamboat.