Recent monsoonal rains have done more than drench unsuspecting summertime tourists. The moisture has led fire officials to recommend lifting fire restrictions on all private lands in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County.
County commissioners approved the recommendation Monday.
The decision to lift restrictions is based on recent rainfall, humidity levels and the firefighters’ ability to control fires, said Hal Doughty, deputy chief with Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.
Residents in the county are still required to get a permit for nonagricultural open burning, Doughty said. Fire officials also requested that farmers planning to conduct agricultural burns notify dispatch before they start burning.
Fire officials already lifted fire restrictions on all public lands in southwestern Colorado at the beginning of the month.
Before commissioners approved the removal of fire restrictions, they heard from resident Tom McCarthy, owner of Hole in the Wall Stables in Animas Valley.
McCarthy complained about a fire Sunday morning by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks that took two hours to put out.
The stable owner said he called dispatch and was told repeatedly that the train had the fire under control, even though he said he saw flames near the railroad track.
Dan Noonan, chief of Durango Fire & Rescue Authority said the authority didn’t respond to the fire initially because the train reported it had the blaze under control. Durango Fire & Rescue crews responded an hour-and-a-half later when several calls indicated the fire was not under control. Noonan said the fire reached a size of 15 feet by 15 feet.
McCarthy said the fire department should have responded much sooner to help train crews douse it.
County Commissioner Kellie Hotter said McCarthy was describing a lack of communication that needs to be resolved as fire bans are lifted. Doughty promised he would investigate.
Commissioners first approved Stage 1 fire restrictions on June 7. Doughty said it is impossible to predict whether the county will need to impose restrictions later in the season.