A forecast of warm, dry and windy conditions this week has prompted county and federal officials to enact fire restrictions because of threat of wildfires, and they are asking people to be careful with their fires.
On Tuesday, the La Plata County Commissioners enacted fire restrictions on open burning south of U.S. Highway 160, effective Wednesday. Montezuma County also issued a fire ban effective Saturday.
Federal lands agencies also put fire restrictions in place. The Bureau of Land Management announced a stage 1 fire restriction on BLM-administered lands in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, and San Miguel counties. Mesa Verde banned open fires throughout the park effective Saturday, which includes open wood-burning fires in the campground. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has made similar restrictions on tribal lands.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Tuesday and Wednesday in Montezuma and Dolores counties because of gusty winds and low humidity. A red flag warning means wildfires could start easily and grow rapidly.
Under a stage 1 fire restriction, it is illegal to build, maintain, attend or use a fire. Fireworks and other explosive material are prohibited. Smoking is allowed only in vehicles, buildings and developed recreational areas. A violation of the fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each violation.
The fire restrictions will remain in effect until the threat of fire danger has reduced significantly, as determined by the sheriff, local fire chiefs and the county’s director of emergency management. If conditions worsen, heightened fire restrictions may be enacted.
No fire restrictions have been enacted in the San Juan National Forest as the busy Fourth of July holiday approaches; however, additional fire prevention patrol officers will be out to remind forest users to be extremely careful.
At this time, all public fireworks displays for Fourth of July celebrations will continue under the supervision of the respective fire districts. Final decisions will be made as the date approaches.
The Colorado Department of Transportation also announced that it has suspended roadside maintenance operation in Southwest Colorado because of the risk of grass fires.
CDOT has suspended operations on U.S. Highway 160 from the Four Corners Monument to Pagosa Springs, U.S. Highway 491 and Colorado highways 141, 90 and 97 along the western edge of the state; U.S. Highway 550 south from Durango to New Mexico, and Colorado highways 140, 172 and 151 from Highway 160 in La Plata County to the New Mexico state line.