Town enters Stage 2 fire restrictions

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At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Pagosa Springs Town Council approved an emergency ordinance enacting Stage 2 fire restrictions within the boundaries of the Town of Pagosa Springs.
Approval of the ordinance means that the town’s fire restrictions are now on par with the surrounding area.
The decision followed a pair of presentations related to the drought and fire danger.
The first, from Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Manager Justin Ramsey, outlined that PAWSD has entered into the voluntary water-reduction stage of its drought management plan (see related article for more information).
The second came from Archuleta County Manager of Emergency Operations Mike Le Roux.
That presentation covered the current fire conditions in the county and the parameters for enacting fire restrictions (see related articles for more information).
Le Roux informed council that the primary concern is the economic impact of fire restrictions, but that fuel moisture is low.
“Anything is starting a fire at this point,” he said before outlining the status of the 416 Fire burning north of Durango. “So, fire is around us, we have that problem.”
After touching on the perception issue involved with having restrictions differ between jurisdictions, Le Roux informed the council that the $20,000 it had budgeted for a fireworks display on the Fourth of July would pay for four air drops, which would not accomplish much on a fire (the council voted to cancel its Fourth of July fireworks display at the same meeting).
Le Roux also informed the council that the recent rains did nothing to the fire danger indices, but instead the lighting increased the number of fires and caused a headache for responders.
Tourism Director Jennie Green then informed the council that the biggest trigger to enter Stage 3 restrictions would be a human-caused fire, leading to an educational effort in the community on the current Stage 2 restrictions.
More about the volunteer educational effort can be found at http://www.pagosasprings.co.gov.
Council also discussed one aspect of the proposed Stage 2 restrictions that could have an economic impact on several businesses — prohibiting the outdoor smoking of meat.
In the initial version of the ordinance, that activity would have been prohibited, but council opted to amend that portion of the restrictions to allow commercial businesses to request an exemption from the town building/fire code official to operate outdoor slow burner smokers if the appropriate mitigation measures are taken.
The ordinance was approved unanimously, implementing the Stage 2 restrictions.
Per the restrictions, the following are prohibited within the Town of Pagosa Springs until further notice:
• Open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning within all private land in the Town of Pagosa Springs and all land owned by the Town of Pagosa Springs.
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, coal- or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal-fueled broiler or open fire of any type, except that the town fire code official may grant permits for commercial businesses operating outdoor smokers based on appropriate fire mitigation measures. Mechanical stoves and appliances fueled by bottled or liquid gas (such as gas grills), which allow the operator to control and extinguish the flame with a valve are permitted.
• Smoking is prohibited except within an enclosed vehicle or building.
• Using explosive materials: (i.e. fireworks of all types, including sparklers; blasting caps or incendiary devices that may result in the ignition of flammable materials). Blasting in development areas or construction areas with a continuous fire watch will be permitted after notification of the Pagosa Springs police chief via Archuleta County Combined Dispatch.
• Welding or operating an acetylene or similar torch with open flame. Welding and cutting will be permitted with the following requirements: a 20-foot radius safe zone free of vegetation shall be established; and one 2.5 gallon pressured fire extinguisher or a five-pound extinguisher or a pressured water supply and proper hand tools must be on site; and a fire watch individual must be standing by continuously. Oil and gas welding and cutting operations, which are required to comply with the requirements of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Production, Rule 606A(o), shall be conducted with a 40-foot diameter safe zone.
• Operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order meeting either specific standards.
• Operating a chain saw without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than eight ounces capacity by weight, and one size zero or larger round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches. The extinguisher shall be with the chain saw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies, but readily available.