Fire danger prompts restrictions

Conditions remain strikingly similar to 2002 before Missionary Ridge Fire

With a hot, dry spring leading to a parched summer, county and federal public-lands officials announced the seasonís first fire restrictions will begin Saturday.

Stage 1 fire restrictions will apply to all middle and lower elevation public lands in Southwest Colorado that are managed by the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management. That area generally stretches from Wolf Creek Pass to the Utah border south of Kennebec Pass, Spruce Mill Road and the West Dolores Road. It does not include lands in the South San Juan and Weminuche wildernesses.

Also under fire restrictions are all unincorporated parts of the county.

The restrictions carry the following limitations:

Building campfires is allowed only in permanent fire rings or grates within developed campgrounds.

Smoking is allowed only in vehicles, buildings, or 3-foot wide areas cleared of vegetation.

Using a torch for welding or cutting is allowed only within a 20-foot vegetation-free zone. Oil and gas operations face stricter limitations.

Using a chain saw and other internal-combustion engines is allowed only with working spark arresters.

Using an acetylene or other torches with an open flame is prohibited.

Using explosives is prohibited.

Fire marshals in each fire district are allowed to ease fire restrictions on an individual basis.

The restrictions are being implemented about three weeks earlier than last year. Hot temperatures, windy conditions and a lack of precipitation have created dry fuels and the type of extreme fire activity not seen since the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire, said Hal Doughty, deputy chief for the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

The area received about 10 inches less precipitation than average over the winter and spring season, said Butch Knowlton, director of emergency preparedness for La Plata County.

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