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La Plata County approves Stage 3 fire restrictions

Coal-fired steam engines prohibited
La Plata County commissioners approved Stage 3 fire restrictions Tuesday, which closes county-owned open spaces and trails. The ban also requires closing of the homeless camp and prohibits the use of coal-fired steam engines, which would apply to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

La Plata County entered Stage 3 fire restrictions Tuesday, the most stringent category of rules the county has the authority to put in place to reduce the risk of wildfire.

The county, which had Stage 2 restrictions in place, increased the fire restrictions because of the extreme fire danger in Southwest Colorado, which has led to the outbreak of the 416 and Burro fires.

County officials hope the additional restrictions will prevent another fire, which will in turn allow available firefighting resources to be dedicated to the two active fires.

Notably, the county’s Stage 3 fire restrictions prevent the operation of any coal-fired steam engines. That means the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad cannot operate its coal engines, but it can operate its diesel engines.

The Durango train has already suspended all services until at least June 30. County Manager Joanne Spina said Al Harper, owner of the D&SNG, assured her the train will not even run diesel engines until the Stage 3 restrictions are lifted.

Under these tighter restrictions, residents can still use propane grills, but they are prohibited from a number of other activities, including:

Discharging fireworks and pyrotechnics.Launching floating sky lanterns. Discharging firearms or using exploding targets. (Individuals still have the ability to protect themselves, their property and family.)Blasting in development zones, such as in construction areas.Flaring at oil and gas well sites.La Plata County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Stage 3 restrictions, stressing the fact they are temporary.

“We’re really hoping with the monsoons we can dial that back,” Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said. “But now it’s just paramount we do everything we can to reduce the risk of further fire.”

The San Juan National Forest entered Stage 3 fire restrictions Tuesday and closed all 1.8 million acres.


Stage 3 restrictions according to La Plata County

In addition to maintaining previous restrictions, Stage 3 will add these additional closures/restrictions/ prohibitions:

The closure of all La Plata County owned trails, encampments, open space, and unimproved lands.

Those agricultural producers exempt from fire bans pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 30-15-401(n.5)(III) and 35-28-104(11) may perform agricultural burning only with 48 hours prior notification to the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff.

Indoor fire places and wood-burning stoves without an approved interior and exterior chimney spark arrestor.

The sale, discharge or use of any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device (including 4th of July celebrations).

The use of floating sky lanterns, fire balloons or acetylene balloons.

Discharge of firearms or the use of exploding targets, unless under the circumstances described in C.R.S. § 30-15-302.

Blasting in development areas or construction areas.

The use of an explosive, blasting caps, or any other incendiary device, including the use of any model rockets.

Flaring for oil and gas production wells.

Operation of coal-fired steam engines.

Certain exemptions apply to these prohibitions. They include:

Any federal, state or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.

Flaring at centralized processing and compressing facilities is permitted so long as all conditions and requirements issued by applicable regulators are satisfied.

Emergency repair of public utilities.

Fires permitted by the La Plata County Sheriff or local fire chiefs within their jurisdiction, if, in their professional opinions, such action is appropriate, safe and prudent.

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