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Stricter fire rules go into effect today

Courtesy San Juan National Forest

Fire restrictions for the east side of the San Juan National Forest.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Fire danger is taking some of the fun out of the Fourth of July.

Effective today the entire San Juan National Forest is under fire restrictions. Also, some fireworks shows have been canceled – a decision on Durango’s fireworks display is expected today.

Lower and middle elevations of the national forest, under stage 1 guidelines announced June 19, are now under more restrictive stage 2 regulations. Higher elevations, which had no restrictions, now operate under stage 1 guidelines, the Forest Service announced Monday.

The boundary between high and low runs east and west, following juridictional boundaries, roads and trails at about 8,500 feet. Maps delineating the boundaries are available at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan. Information also is available at the San Juan Public Lands Center at 247-4874.

Bureau of Land Management lands will go under similar restrictions beginning Wednesday, Connie Clementson, BLM field manager of the Tres Rios office, said Monday.

Terms can be confusing. Lower elevations (zone I) are under stage 2 restrictions. Higher elevations (zone II) are under stage 1 restrictions.

High temperatures, low humidity and gusty breezes that have held sway in Southwest Colorado for several weeks – with the exception of sporadic thunderstorms – are responsible for the move to tighter fire regulations.

La Plata County is moving toward stage 2 restrictions in unincorporated areas, Butch Knowlton, the county director of emergency preparedness, said Monday. The matter is on county commissioners’ agenda July 9, he said.

“This is a good opportunity to note that even though we’ve had some rain, we haven’t benefitted,” Knowlton said. “The risk is still high and people must be cautious and conscious of the risks.”

Unincorporated La Plata County currently is under stage 1 guidelines.

Mesa Verde National Park on Friday banned open fires anywhere in the park, including residences and campground fire rings. Pressurized charcoal grills are permitted in Morefield Campground and at the Chapin picnic area. Smoking is allowed only in closed vehicles.

In zone I (lower elevations, more restrictive):

All open fires and campfires are banned.

Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles or buildings.

Chain saws and internal-combustion engines must have working spark arresters and chain saws must be accompanied by a shovel and fire extinguisher.

Welders and other torches with an open flame are prohibited.

Use of explosives are prohibited.

In zone II (higher elevations, less restrictive):

Campfires are limited to permanent fire rings or grates in developed campgrounds.

Smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings or within a 3-foot-wide area cleared of vegetation.

Chain saws and other internal-combustion engines must have working spark arresters (always in effect in national forests).

Welders and other torches with open flame are prohibited.

Use of explosives is prohibited.

Scheduled fireworks have been yanked in Bayfield and Vallecito. All other Fourth of July activities there are scheduled to go on as advertised.

Durango Fire & Rescue Authority officials will decide today whether to have fireworks.

In Silverton, fireworks are a definite go.

“There’s no danger from fireworks,” San Juan County Sheriff Sue Kurtz said. “The Silverton-San Juan Fire Authority is very capable.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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