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Area fire restrictions imposed

As of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, June 9, Pagosa Country will enter into Stage 1 fire restrictions, essentially prohibiting open burning, burn barrels, agricultural burning, explosives and personal fireworks, but not public.

The town’s Fourth of July fireworks show is not affected by the restrictions.

The following agencies have already, or are expected to impose restrictions by Friday: Archuleta County, Pagosa Springs, Hinsdale County, Mineral County, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, San Juan Public Lands, and the Los Pinos and Pagosa fire protection districts.

The criteria for entering into fire restrictions are set out in the 2012 Southwest Annual Operating Plan, as well as the Southwest Colorado Fire Danger Operating plan, though each entity still must actively enter into restrictions.

In general, Stage 1 restrictions prohibit open burning, burn barrels, agricultural burning, explosives and internal combustion engines (unless equipped with a spark arrestor).

Cutting and welding are allowed, but proper fire hand tools and 40 pounds worth of fire extinguishers or a pressurized water supply must be available and, if working away from a shop, a person identified as a Fire Watch is required to be standing by continuously.

Oil and gas operations are required to comply with the requirement of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Protection, Rule 606A.

Building, maintaining or using a fire, campfire, coal- or wood-burning stove, and open fire are prohibited in undeveloped areas.

While much is prohibited in light of the dry conditions across Pagosa Country, gas grills and barbecues at private residences and fires within designated campground pits with protective grates are allowed.

Also allowed are camp stoves, grills or lights fueled by bottled gas.

In presenting the fire ban recommendation to the Pagosa Springs Town Council Tuesday evening, Town Manager David Mitchem’s report read, “As was the case last year, we believe the July Fourth fireworks will be held as scheduled. Preparation will be made in cooperation with the Pagosa Springs Area Fire District to ensure a safe fireworks display.”

Mitchem reiterated that at Tuesday’s meeting. “As council will recall, last year towards the end of June, we were in a similar situation as far the fire danger and at that time we joined with Archuleta County in imposing fire restrictions within the town limits. And the question comes up, will that impact the fireworks. I think, at least at this time, it will not. We’ll coordinate closely with the fire department to insure that that is a safe event.”

Pagosa Fire Protection District Chief Diane Bower said that, while the PFPD will continue to sell burn permits, those permits cannot be used while the restrictions are in effect.

The restrictions will last until each agency deems the fire danger to be low enough to lift them in its district and, by the same token, may be increased should fuels continue to dry and the weather promote the probability of burns.

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