By Ann Bond
Special to The SUN
Due to the arrival of monsoonal weather patterns and lowering of fire danger, the San Juan National Forest will eliminate fire restrictions at higher elevations, and ease fire restrictions at lower and middle elevations on Wednesday, July 17.
Fire managers have determined that lower and middle elevations remain dry and potentially flammable, while higher elevations have received enough moisture to significantly reduce fire danger. Therefore, as of Wednesday, July 17, San Juan National Forest lands at higher elevations will not be under any fire restrictions, while lower and middle elevation portions will be eased to Stage 1 restrictions, whereby:
• campfires are limited to permanent fire rings or grates within developed campgrounds;
• smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites, or 3-foot wide areas cleared of vegetation;
• acetylene and other torches with an open flame are prohibited;
• use of explosives is prohibited.
The restriction boundary line will remain the same as it has been, bisecting the national forest from east to west, following identifiable jurisdictional boundaries, roads and trails at approximately 8,500 feet. Only those areas south of the line will be under the above-described Stage I restrictions.
Fire managers highly recommend the additional safety tips, even in areas not under restrictions:
• Dispose of cigarette butts in an ashtray or other appropriate container.
• Make sure chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines have approved, working spark arresters. Carry water, a shovel and fire extinguisher with you and operate within areas clear of flammable materials.
• Park vehicles in areas clear of vegetation.
• In higher-elevation areas where backcountry campfires are allowed, use established fire rings in areas clear of vegetation. Have a shovel and water handy, and put campfires out completely every time you leave camp. Pour water on the ashes and stir until there is no smoke and ashes are cool to the touch. Better yet, consider using a camp stove!
• Remember that fireworks are never allowed on federal lands, even where restrictions are not in place.
The closure order and maps depicting the restriction boundaries should be available Wednesday at San Juan National Forest offices and on the Web at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.