Stricter fire restrictions likely to be enacted this week

Thursday, May 31, 2018 10:34 AM
Stricter fire restrictions are expected to be enacted this week throughout Southwest Colorado, which is in an “exceptional drought.”

Stricter fire restrictions are expected to be implemented this week as a result of dry conditions with little relief in sight.

La Plata County fire chiefs will recommend that county commissioners enact Stage 2 fire restrictions on Thursday, said Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty.

The San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Indian Affairs Southern Ute Agency will enter Stage 2 fire restrictions Friday.

Stage 2 restrictions ban campfires, even in developed campgrounds and recreation areas, as well as other activity that poses a fire danger. The county restrictions would apply to unincorporated areas of La Plata County, excluding private lands in the towns of Bayfield, Ignacio and the city of Durango.

This winter, snowfall in the Animas River Basin was less than 40 percent of average, and this week, Southwest Colorado’s snowpack was at 3 percent of the historic average.

The county has been under Stage 1 restrictions since May 1.

The restrictions are necessary as a result of the hot and dry weather, which has dried out fuels across Southwest Colorado, said San Juan National Forest Fire Manager Richard Bustamante.

Bustamante pointed to the 358 Fire, sparked by someone shooting at a private gun range, as evidence of the extremely dry conditions. He also expressed concern about finding abandoned campfires in the area.

La Plata County is currently in an “exceptional drought,” the most severe listing, with much of the Four Corners in either extreme or exceptional drought.

The National Weather Service said there is no significant precipitation in the immediate forecast.

If conditions do not improve, Stage 3 restrictions could be implemented, which would close off fire-prone areas to the public.

Archuleta County implemented Stage 2 fire restrictions on Tuesday.

The Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office also is considering implementing Stage 2 fire restrictions, said spokeswoman Shannon Borders.

Stage 2 restrictions

Stage 2 Restrictions on unincorporated lands in La Plata County. Restrictions may be different depending on which agency manages lands being used.
No campfires, including in developed campgrounds and recreation area. No charcoal or coal barbecues or wood burning stoves. Gas powered stoves are allowed if they are at least 3 feet away from flammable material such as grass. Stoves and fireplaces are allowed within homes if the chimney has a working spark arrestor. No smoking, except for in a building or vehicle. No welding or use of open-flame torches. No use of equipment with an internal combustion engine without a properly installed spark arresting device, including chainsaws, ATVs and generators. No use of chainsaws without a spark arresting device and a readily accessible fire extinguisher and shovel. No explosives such as fire works and tracer round bullets. No traveling off marked roads, trails and parking areas in cars or off-road vehicles. Exemptions may be granted under special circumstances through the Forest Service.