Fire danger prompts stricter limits

Campfires, woodstoves prohibited in La Plata County

Campers, don’t get your hopes up for s’mores this summer.

Stage 2 fire restrictions in the unincorporated parts of the county and on all middle- and lower-elevation public lands were implemented Wednesday.

That means open burning, campfires and woodstoves are completely prohibited. Smoking is allowed only inside an enclosed vehicle or structure and use of chain saws and other internal-combustion engines must be accompanied by a fire extinguisher.

Meanwhile, Stage 1 fire restrictions have been implemented in all higher-elevation public lands.

Those restrictions limit fires to designated fire rings, allow smoking only in areas cleared of vegetation, put conditions on the use of torches and internal-combustion engines and prohibit open-flame torches and explosives, including fireworks.

The restrictions cover higher-elevation lands from Wolf Creek Pass to the Utah border and north of Kennebec Pass, Spruce Mill Road and West Dolores Road. The area includes the South San Juan and Weminuche wilderness areas.

The public should consult campground hosts and reference maps on the U.S. Forest Service website.

“Hazard-wise, it’s time to bump up our severity level,” said Hal Doughty, deputy chief for Durango Fire & Rescue Authority, in a Wednesday presentation to the county commissioners.

With the Fourth of July around the corner, Doughty said fireworks from New Mexico are not legal in Colorado and the Fourth of July fireworks display put on by the fire department is “up in the air” right now based on liability concerns.

The situation is grim should a fire break out.

“Locally, resources are incredibly thin,” Doughty said. He said to expect “explosive behavior” if a fire starts.

But the county isn’t jumping to stricter Stage 3 restrictions because of the potential to impact the work of the natural-gas and oil industry.

“We don’t want to do anything that’s going to drastically impact the economy in the area,” Doughty said.

Two new fires broke out this week, one south and east of the Little Sand Fire near Pagosa Springs, and one near Craig in northern Colorado. Another fire near Bloomfield, N.M., on the San Juan River continues to burn, which is significant because usually those fuels are very wet and hard to burn, Doughty said. The Little Sand Fire is 30 percent contained and has burned about 14,200 acres.

With fires raging around the region, “we can’t be cautious enough,” La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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