Fire conditions threaten fireworks


Staff Writer

With little moisture falling and fuels drying out, area agencies are considering or have affected fire restrictions, putting Pagosa Springs’ Fourth of July fireworks display into question again this year due to the fire danger.

The past two years, with large fires burning in the area (the Little Sand and West Fork Complex fires) and fire restrictions in place, the fireworks displays were canceled.

And while the fireworks have been purchased by and delivered to the Town of Pagosa Springs for the display with the intent of it moving forward, fire conditions over the next week will be the determining factor for if the display will occur or not.

“We would desire to have the fireworks for the community,” said Greg Schulte, interim town manager.

Officials from the town and county are actively monitoring the fire danger, with Archuleta County Sheriff Pete Gonzalez ultimately responsible for the final decision.

“We certainly will take our cue and our advice from the sheriff and his staff,” Schulte added.

For his decision, Gonzalez said he will rely on information from Thad McKain, the county’s director of emergency management.

Gonzalez said he is optimistic that conditions will be favorable enough to move forward with the display, but that information he is receiving is causing “major concerns.”

Gonzalez added he hopes to prolong the decision until the last minute.

McKain indicated that he and the sheriff are having ongoing discussions to keep up to date on the matter and are consulting with other area agencies concerning burn restrictions, but said that, at this time, he does not foresee any burn restrictions going into place that would affect the fireworks.

“We will be monitoring very, very closely,” McKain said.

For updates on the issue, check next week’s issue of The SUN and

Tribal land restrictions

The Southern Ute Indian Reservation instituted Stage I fire restrictions Monday, June 23, which will remain in effect until conditions improve.

According to a SUIT press release, the restrictions are “Due to the current high temperatures, dry fuel conditions and the occurrence of recent wildland fires …”

The press release states, “Everyone on reservation land is asked to be very cautious and use common sense with fire this time of year.”

The Stage I restrictions apply to the general public, as well as commercial operators and industrial oil and gas operators performing work on the SUIT Reservation.

According to the press release, the following acts are prohibited for the general public on reservation lands:

• Open burning: “Burning of trash and/or yard waste is prohibited.”

• Agricultural burning: “Burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and weed burning are prohibited.”

• Campfires: “Building, maintaining or using a warming fire or campfire outside of officially designated or developed camp sites is prohibited. The fire restrictions do not include charcoal fires (in suitable containers) for barbeques (sic) or fires for sweat ceremonies, however, such fires are not to be left unattended and are to be fully extinguished after use.”

• Fireworks: “Possession, discharging or use of any type of fireworks is prohibited.”

Commercial and industrial restrictions can be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Office at 575 La Plata County Road 517 or by calling (970) 563-4571.

Anyone violating the provisions of the fire ban may be subject to prosecution outlined in the Southern Ute Indian Criminal Code.

Personal fireworks

Both state and local law prohibit the possession and use of fireworks.

Colorado state statute prohibits fireworks that explode or leave the ground, and under the town’s municipal code, it is illegal to use, possess or explode any fireworks.

In Pagosa Springs, possession of fireworks can earn up to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.