By Randi Pierce
Archuleta County will resume Stage 1 fire restrictions effective 12:01 p.m. today, Wednesday, Aug. 19, and the San Juan National Forest will implement restrictions beginning Thursday, Aug. 20.
Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez announced the restrictions in a press release late Wednesday morning.
“With the current high fire danger across the State and an increase in the number of fire related incidents both regionally and statewide, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office in collaboration with Pagosa Fire Protection District, hereby notifies the residents of Archuleta County that in accordance with Ordinance 18-2017 FOR THE REGULATION OF OPEN BURNING IN THE UNINCORPORATED AREAS OF ARCHULETA COUNTY, Archuleta County will resume Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, effective as of 12:01 Wednesday August 19, 2020,” the sheriff’s press release states.
The press release indicates that the matter will be considered at an upcoming BoCC meeting for the board to either confirm or rescind the restrictions.
“With minimal monsoon moisture received this year, Fire Managers on the San Juan National Forest are implementing Stage I Fire Restrictions (order) on all National Forest System lands within the San Juan National Forest, including wilderness beginning at 12:01 a.m. on August 20, 2020,” a press release from the U.S. Forest Service states. “Fire restrictions are designed to protect people, property and the area’s natural resources, and are in response to the drought in Southwest Colorado and continuing hot dry weather forecasts.”
That press release further states that neighboring jurisdictions and agencies with wildland fire responsibility are also discussing entering fire restrictions “as part of continued collaboration in community and resource protection.”
The press release explains, “We work closely with our partners to support our shared interest in fire prevention and reducing the risk of human-caused wildfires across the landscape. Visit the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center fire restrictions page and know before you go.”
Temporary restrictions on the national forest will remain in place until further notice and may be increased or reduced at any time due to changes in weather and fire danger.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced he would take executive action Wednesday to reduce fire risk across the state, with that order slated to be effective Thursday morning.
As of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, that order had not been released.
Archuleta County’s fire restrictions will remain in effect until amended or rescinded by the sheriff or Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC).
County fire restrictions
The following acts are prohibited under the Archuleta County Stage 1 Fire Restriction until further notice, according to the press release:
• 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 in undeveloped areas.
The fire restrictions do not include charcoal fires in suitable containers or gas grills for barbecues at private residences or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates. However, such fires should not be left unattended and should be fully extinguished after use.
The fire restriction also does not include camp stoves, grills, or lights fueled by bottled gas, or pressurized liquid fuel, specifically designed for the purpose of camp cooking or illumination “which shall not be left unattended and shall be fully extinguished after use.”
• Agricultural burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and weed burning are prohibited.
• “Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, in a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable vegetation.”
• “Using explosive material (i.e., fireworks, blasting caps, or any incendiary device which may result in the ignition of flammable material). The fire restrictions do not include local community fireworks displays that have been, or may be, approved and permitted by the Archuleta Country Sheriff.”
• “Operating or using any internal combustion engine is prohibited unless it is equipped with a working spark-arresting device. The device must be properly installed, maintained and must meet either:
“i. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1a; or
“ii. Appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice J355(b) and J350(a)”
• “The following requirements apply to all welding and cutting operations. Firefighting hand tools shall be readily available. During welding, a combination of fire extinguishers with a combined capacity of 40 lbs or a pressurized water supply shall be immediately accessible. When welding or cutting in an area that a fire may ignite, a person shall be designated as a fire watch. The area surrounding the work shall be inspected at least one (1) hour after the hot work is completed.”
• “Oil and gas operations are required to comply with the requirements of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Protection, Rule 606A.”
• “Any gas escaping from a well during drilling operations shall be, so far as practical, conducted to a safe distance from the well site and flammable vegetation, and burned.”
Operators are also required to notify Archuleta County Combined Dispatch at 731-2160 in advance of any flaring when it is anticipated, and in all other cases as soon as possible, but no more than two hours after the flaring has occurred.
The county’s press release notes that the sheriff may grant written permission to allow open fires upon request, “provided that it is proven to their satisfaction that such exception to the fire restrictions does not constitute a high danger of forest, grass, or other wildland fire …”
San Juan National Forest fire restrictions
The following acts are prohibited under on the San Juan National Forest until further notice, according to the press release:
• Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire “(including fires fueled by charcoal or briquettes) outside of a permanent metal or concrete fire pit or grate that the Forest Service has installed and maintained at its developed recreation sites (campgrounds and picnic areas).”
Excepted is the “use of a stove or grill solely fueled by liquid petroleum fuels, or a fully enclosed metal stove, grill, or sheep herder type stove with a chimney at least five feet in length and a mesh screen spark arrestor with a screen opening of ¼ inch or less.”
• Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
• Operating a chain saw “without an effective and properly installed USDA- or Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)- approved spark arrestor, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher (with a minimum 8 oz. capacity and rating of 2A) kept with the operator, and a round point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches readily available for use.”
• Blasting, welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame without being in a cleared area of at least 10 feet in diameter and keeping a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher (with a minimum 8 oz. capacity and rating of 2A) with the operator.
• Using an explosive. “This includes but is not limited to fuses, blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets, tracers, and incendiary ammunition.”