La Plata County fire chiefs and federal land managers are not recommending fire restrictions ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, a decision reached after “serious deliberation,” according to a news release issued by the Durango Fire Protection District.
The Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes have fire restrictions in place, however.
Any fire restrictions in the county would have to get approved by the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners.
Ann Bond, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest, said there are no restrictions for the forest, but Forest Service officials encourage using fire carefully. Fireworks are illegal on National Forest land. Federal land managers try to coordinate their restrictions with the counties to make it easier for the public, a news release said.
Several factors were examined, including the number of fire starts – either human or natural – as well as fuel moistures, probability of ignition and availability of resources.
“This time of year – right before the monsoons start – is probably the most critical wildfire period in Southwest Colorado,” said Dan Noonan, Durango fire chief in a statement. “But we need to look at the big picture before jumping into restrictions.”
Southwest Colorado has seen only a few lightning starts so far, and firefighters have been able to quickly catch and put out those fires, the news release said. Numerous abandoned campfires have been found over the past several weeks but have not caused any major problems.
The Forest Service monitors fuel moistures, and, while plant life is definitely drier than it was a month ago, most of the vegetation a few miles north and south of U.S. Highway 160 is still fairly green and lush thanks to a couple late spring storms, the news release said.
“Though forecasts are uncertain as to exactly when the monsoons will start, the predictions are that we will have a monsoon season, and it looks like it may bring above-average precipitation,” said Richard Bustamante, fire management officer for the San Juan Public Lands, in the news release.
Residents and visitors need to be extremely careful with fire, thoroughly extinguish all campfires and take heed of “red flag” warnings, the news release said. A “red flag” means warm temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds could lead to rapid wildfire spread; county burn permits for open burning are suspended on these days. There are no restrictions on campfires, but campers are encouraged to forgo their campfires on red-flag days. Campers also should carry extra water and a shovel in case a fire escapes its confines.
An earlier version of this story misattributed a statement to Ann Bond, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest. The error was made in editing.