County, feds ease fire restrictions

Monsoons douse vegetation, making land more resistant to wildfires

La Plata County and the Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday they would relax fire restrictions on public lands and unincorporated lands within the county.

The agencies will shift from Stage 2 to Stage 1 fire restrictions because of the recent moisture that pushed into the area with the summer monsoons.

The Stage 1 fire restrictions include these 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 chain saws and other internal-combustion engines is allowed only with working spark arresters.

Using torches and explosives is prohibited

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

Fire officials in the area decided to recommend the Stage 1 restrictions because the summer rains have put moisture back into the vegetation, making it more resistant to fire starts, said Hal Doughty, deputy chief for Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

The area stretching from Durango to Pagosa Springs has experienced more than 2,000 lightning strikes during the last few weeks without any significant fire outbreaks, which is a good sign, Doughty said.

Afternoon rain also helped bump up morning humidity levels, which hinders fire movement, said Butch Knowlton, director of the La Plata County Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The relative humidity has been above 70 percent, almost double the 40 percent humidity levels the county was experiencing at its driest, Knowlton said.

For more specific information about the fire restrictions, people should contact their local fire department.

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