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Tracking fire limits a chore

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – From behind the counter at the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Information Center, Bryan Fons gets the same question at least daily: “Where can we build a campfire?”

Fire restrictions are easing across the state, including in San Juan National Forest, but that’s making it harder for campers to navigate a patchwork of restrictions across different counties and national forests.

This is one situation where Google won’t be able to provide a reliable answer. An old-fashioned telephone is best.

For example, the heavily used White River National Forest is lifting its fire ban today, but Thursday, the forest’s website still warned of Stage 2 restrictions, meaning no fires of any sort are allowed.

“It’s a multi-faceted solution. Go to the website and get as much information as you can. Then call the local agency,” Fons said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper imposed a statewide fire ban June 14.

At the time, he said he wanted to avoid confusion about different restrictions in Colorado’s many jurisdictions. He lifted the statewide ban July 8.

The state does not have a single website where people can get current fire-ban information. The best source is the state Office of Emergency Management, at www.coemergency.com (click on fire bans and restrictions).

That site has some current information, as well as links to most counties and forests with fire bans.

Micki Trost, the agency’s public information officer, got updates from 10 counties Thursday, and she was aiming to have the website updated that night.

But it can take up to 24 hours to get current information on the site, and that’s if counties and land managers take the time to notify the state.

Fire bans can change as fast as the weather, Trost said, making it difficult to keep updated information online.

“It’s deceptive, because we see in the media that it’s raining in certain areas. But it takes a lot of moisture to lower the fire danger,” Trost said.

A few days of 90-degree temperatures – like much of the state had this week – can dry out brush and grass quickly.

At the Outdoor Research Information Center inside Denver’s REI store, Fons said people are rarely disappointed when he tells them they can have only stoves and no campfires.

“I think the people that have come here have been pretty resilient,” Fons said. “They love the forest as much as we do, and they accept that.”

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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