Red flag warning issued Sunday in Southwest Colorado

Sunday, April 29, 2018 8:46 PM
A red flag warning due to high fire danger was issued for Sunday, and residents should expect more fire restrictions to go into effect throughout the week.

A red flag warning due to high fire danger was issued for Sunday, and residents should expect more fire restrictions to go into effect throughout the week as Southwest Colorado suffers from a prolonged drought.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued the red flag warning until 9 p.m. Sunday as a result of dry conditions, warm temperatures and high winds making a dangerous combo for fire outbreak.

Fire restrictions are set to go into effect all this week in Southwest Colorado.

On Tuesday, the U.S. National Forest Service will place fire restrictions on the lands it manages, including wilderness areas, in light of the wildfire danger.

Camela Hooley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service’s San Juan National Forest, announced the pending “Stage 1” fire restrictions in an emailed statement on Friday.

“Southwest Colorado is currently experiencing exceptional drought conditions,” Hooley said in the email.

“The area only received 40 percent of the normal snowpack and is experiencing multiple fires daily since April 1.”

Recently, the U.S. Drought Monitor listed Southwest Colorado, as well as nearly the entire Four Corners, in an “exceptional drought” – the most critical and intense drought category.

As part of the Forest Service’s Stage 1 fire restrictions, the following is prohibited on Forest Service lands:

Fires, campfire and stove fires; including charcoal grills, hibachis and coal/wood burning stoves. Exceptions include: campfires in Forest Service-provided, manufactured fire grates within Forest Service campgrounds and picnic areas; petroleum field stoves or lanterns that use gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel.Smoking; except in enclosed vehicles or buildings, or in developed recreation sites, or while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of flammable materials.Chainsaws without an approved spark arrester. Operations must have a chemical-pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2A and a round-pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches.Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame, except in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter and in possession of a chemical-pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2A.Explosives, including fireworks, tracer bullets and exploding targets.La Plata County is set to discuss and likely approve fire restrictions at its Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. All the fire chiefs in La Plata County requested the fire restrictions due to the high wildfire danger.

The restrictions would ban controlled burns (except on agricultural lands) and campfires in certain areas, and hold many of the same restrictions set out by the Forest Service.

Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty said previously that though restrictions will help reduce risk, local fire departments’ main issue – open burns on agricultural lands that go out of control – are not addressed in the restrictions. Any bans on fires on agricultural lands would have to be ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Bureau of Land Management and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe will put fire restrictions in place on Tuesday. Montezuma County enacted fire restrictions April 16.

A storm expected to hit Southwest Colorado this week may provide some relief to the parched landscape, said Andrew Lyons, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Monday through Thursday, there’s a chance of rain and even snow showers throughout the region as temperatures are expected to drop. The best chance for precipitation, Lyons said, is Wednesday during the day.

“It’s a typical spring storm,” Lyons said. “It’ll help some but maybe not a whole lot.”