Fire restrictions now in effect throughout town, county, forest and region

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Fire restrictions are now in effect for unincorporated Archuleta County, the Town of Pagosa Springs, San Juan National Forest and other areas in the region.

A number of area agencies discussed moving into fire restrictions this week and next before the start of the Plumtaw Fire, with Archuleta County then moving up the date and issuing the restrictions via resolution Wednesday morning. The town followed with restrictions beginning Friday morning. The following is a list of fire restrictions in the region.

Archuleta County

Archuleta County’s restrictions went into effect at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, and will remain in effect until further notice. 

The resolution approving the fire restrictions states the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners “has received competent evidence that there exists a high danger of forest, grass or other wildland fires within the unincorporated areas of Archuleta County” and that “the Archuleta County Sheriff and the Fire Chiefs of the County’s Fire Protection Districts have requested that the Board impose Stage 1 Fire Restrictions for all private lands in unincorporated areas of Archuleta County.”

“Fire restrictions prohibiting open burning, burn barrels, and agricultural burning in the unincorporated areas of Archuleta County are hereby enacted,” the resolution states. “Provided, further, this resolution is not intended to have any force or effect on land owned by the United States Forest Service or the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.”

Further details on the restrictions are listed in a previous update below.

Town of Pagosa Springs

Following the Pagosa Springs Town Council’s unanimous decision at its meeting Thursday, the town of Pagosa Springs entered a Stage One fire ban effective 12 a.m. on May 20.

This fire ban, according to “Resolution 2022-06, Enacting Stage One Fire Restrictions in Town Limits,” means that: 

  • The building, maintaining, attending, or using any fire, campfire, coal or wood burning stove, any type of charcoal fueled broiler, or open fire of any type in undeveloped areas, is not authorized during Pagosa Springs fire restrictions. 
  • Burn permits issued shall not be authorized during the fire restriction period.
  • The use of all fireworks is prohibited in a fire ban.
  • Agricultural burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, weed burning, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and any open burning including “bon fires” that require a permit from the fire authority having jurisdiction, will not be allowed during Pagosa Springs fire restrictions.
  • Shooting tracer rounds or explosive type targets are prohibited. The use of an explosive initiation system requiring a burning fuse line is prohibited.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least six feet diameter that is barren or cleared of all combustible material is not authorized during Pagosa Springs fire restrictions. 

This fire ban is the result of “the recent and evolving situation with the Plumtaw Fire, high winds and lack of moisture” in the area, according to the resolution’s brief. 

Full guidelines on the fire ban, including what is permissible and further definitions, can be found here

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest announced via press release on Wednesday afternoon that it will enter Stage 1 fire restrictions at 12:01am on Friday, May 20.

Southern Ute Indian Reservation

Updated Thursday at noon press release from Lindsay J. Box:

Due to the current high temperatures, dry fuel conditions and the occurrence of recent wildland fires, Stage I fire restrictions have been implemented for all trust lands throughout the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Everyone on reservation land is asked to be very cautious and use common sense with fire this time of year.

Stage I Fire Restrictions prohibits acts for the general public, commercial operators and industrial oil and gas operators performing work on the Southern Ute Reservation.

The following acts are prohibited for the general public on reservation lands:

  1. OPEN BURNING.  Burning of trash and/or yard waste is prohibited. 

2. AGRICULTURAL BURNING.  Burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and weed burning are prohibited.

3.  CAMP FIRES.  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 or fires for sweat ceremonies, however, such fires are not to be left unattended and are to be fully extinguished after use.

4. FIREWORKS.  Possession, discharging or use of any type of fireworks is prohibited.

Commercial and Industrial restrictions can be obtained from the BIA Fire Office at 575 County Road 517 or by calling (970) 563-4571.

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

The Restrictions will become effective at 6 a.m., May 20 and will remain until conditions improve.

Previous update from Wednesday:

Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management Officer Rich Gustafson told The SUN Tuesday he anticipates Stage 1 fire restrictions will go into effect for tribal lands at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 20, though that was not yet official as of press time Wednesday.

“We’re just a little lower elevation and a little further south,” Gustafson said in explaining why tribal lands are moving into fire restrictions sooner than most other agencies.

The main intent of the restrictions, he noted, is to lessen the number of human starts and make the public aware, adding that live fuel moistures are not going up as high as they would like to see them because of a lack of spring moisture and the area has experienced 20 years of drought.

It could be a severe fire season, he added. 

Hinsdale County adopts Stage 1 fire restrictions in Upper Piedra and Rio Grande areas

Hinsdale County will implement Stage 1 Fire Restrictions in the Upper Piedra and Rio Grande areas of Hinsdale County on Friday, May 20 at noon. At this time there are no restrictions in the northern areas of Hinsdale County, in the Lake City area or along the Alpine Loop.

As part of the Stage 1 restrictions, using a fire is prohibited except within permanent fire pits or grates on private property or developed recreation sites. Use of explosive materials is prohibited as well as smoking outdoors. 

Hinsdale Board of County Commissioners approved fire restrictions during the May 18 meeting. The restrictions were recommended by Sheriff Chris Kambish and Emergency Manager Phil Graham following announcement of restrictions in San Juan National Forest and Rio Grande National Forest also starting May 20.

Under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, the following activities are prohibited:

  • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal barbecues/grills or stove fires;
    • EXCEPTION: Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal, in constructed, permanent fire pits or fire grates within developed recreation sites or on private property is permissible. The use of portable stoves, lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum, pressurized liquid fuel or a fully enclosed (sheepherder type) gas stove or grill with a ¼” spark arrester type screen is also permitted.
  • Using explosive materials, including but not limited to, fireworks;
  • Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle, trailer, building or tent, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material;

The following activities are permitted:

·         Cooking on manufactured liquid fuel and propane grills;

·         Campfires in pre-fabricated concrete/metal fire enclosures in established campgrounds (USFS, NPS, privately owned);

·         Fires in chiminea type manufactured enclosures on private property; and

·         Public fireworks displays authorized by Hinsdale County.

The following persons are exempt from the prohibitions:

  • Any local, state, or federal officer, or member of an organized emergency operation (i.e. Fire Department, search and rescue, law enforcement, etc.); and
  • Persons with a permit from the Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Department specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited activity.

Rio Grande
National Forest

The Rio Grande National Forest is implementing Stage 1 fire restrictions at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 20, according to a press release, with staff citing persistent drought and lack of spring rains as leading to dry conditions that elevate fire danger in the San Luis and Upper Rio Grande valleys.

“The relentless spring winds have accelerated the snow melt and drying process this year,” said Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas. “With the increasingly dry conditions, unfavorable long-term forecast, and the beginning of the summer recreation season, we feel this is a prudent decision.”

The San Luis Valley Field Office is also in Stage 1 fire restrictions on Bureau of Land Management lands in six San Luis Valley counties, according to the press release.

For more information about BLM Colorado Fire restrictions visit BLM Colorado Fire Restrictions.

For information on the Rio Grande National Forest, call (719) 657-3321, visit the forest website, or follow us on our Facebook page or Twitter.

Restriction information available online

Stage 1 restrictions are similar across area agencies, but residents should consult current fire restrictions for the area in which they reside or are recreating.

More information on the specifics of the county’s fire restrictions can be found at www.PagosaSUN.com or http://www.archuletacounty.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=165.

The resolution explains the criteria for Stage 1 fire restrictions is laid out in the “2018 Southwest Annual Operating Plan” and the “Southwest Colorado Fire Danger Operating Plan.”

randi@pagosasun.com


Previous update from May 18

By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Archuleta County announced Wednesday morning that Stage 1 fire restrictions are now in effect for unincorporated Archuleta County, effective at 9 a.m. and will continue until further notice.

The resolution approving the fire restrictions states the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners “has received competent evidence that there exists a high danger of forest, grass or other wildland fires within the unincorporated areas of Archuleta County” and that “the Archuleta County Sheriff and the Fire Chiefs of the County’s Fire Protection Districts have requested that the Board impose Stage 1 Fire Restrictions for all private lands in unincorporated areas of Archuleta County.”

The town, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, San Juan National Forest, Rio Grande National Forest are also in the process of considering or instituting fire restrictions. For more on those agencies and the restrictions, see the May 19 issue of The SUN.

“Fire restrictions prohibiting open burning, burn barrels, and agricultural burning in the unincorporated areas of Archuleta County are hereby enacted,” the resolution states. “Provided, further, this resolution is not intended to have any force or effect on land owned by the United States Forest Service or the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.”

The resolution explains the criteria for Stage 1 fire restrictions is laid out in the “2018 Southwest Annual Operating Plan” and the “Southwest Colorado Fire Danger Operating Plan.”

Per the resolution, the following acts are prohibited until further notice.

• The building, maintaining, attending or using any fire, campfire, coal- or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal fueled broiler, or open fire of any type in undeveloped areas, is not authorized during Archuleta County fire restrictions except for certain listed exemptions.

• Burn permits issued shall not be authorized during the fire restriction period.

• “The use of ALL fireworks is prohibited in a fire ban. This includes ‘permissible fireworks’ such as, but not limited to small fireworks devices designed to produce audible or visual effects by combustion, fountains, cones, spinners, sparklers, poppers, snake or glow worm pellets and other trick noisemakers.”

 Fireworks is defined in section 12-28-101(3) of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) and “shall specifically include ‘permissible fireworks’ as defined in section 12-28-101(8) C.R.S.”

• Agricultural burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, weed burning, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and any open burning including “bon fires” that require a permit from the fire authority having jurisdiction, will not be allowed during Archuleta County fire restrictions.

• “Shooting tracer rounds or explosive type targets are prohibited. The use of an explosive initiation system requiring a burning fuse line is prohibited.”

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least 6 feet diameter that is barren or cleared of all combustible material is not authorized during Archuleta County fire restrictions.

The following acts are approved exemptions during fire restrictions:

• Recreational fires will be limited to appliances fueled by bottled gas or pressurized liquid fuel at developed parks, campgrounds, private residences or picnic areas and not closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area.

Recreational fires within a permanently constructed fire grate in a developed park, campground, private residence, or picnic area and not closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area.

 The resolution explains, “Liquid or Gas-Fueled Appliances such as grills, camp stoves, and Tiki torches that burn liquid or gaseous fuels and can be shut off. Recreational camp fires will also be limited to burning material other than rubbish or debris where the fuel being burned is not contained in a portable outdoor fireplace or barbeque grill and has a total fuel area of 2 ft wide x 2 ft long x 2 ft high, protected by a permanent fire ring structure and covered by a steel grate, for pleasure, religious, ceremonial, cooking, warmth, or similar purposes. This includes fires in barrels and drums; fixed, permanent outdoor fireplaces; and barbeque pit fires.”

• “Operating a chain saw with a USDA or SAE approved spark arresting device properly installed and in effective working order, and having a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than eight (8) ounces capacity by weight, and possessing one large size pointed shovel with an overall length of at least thirty-six (36) inches is allowed during fire restrictions. The extinguisher shall be with the chain saw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies, but readily available for quick use.”

• Charcoal grills use either charcoal briquettes or all-natural lump charcoal as their fuel source. The charcoal, when burned, will transform into embers radiating the heat necessary to cook food.

Charcoal grill fires at private residences or within a permanently constructed fire ring structure covered by a steel grate in a developed park, campground, or picnic area are allowed during fire restrictions. 

Charcoal barbeque grills shall not be closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area.

• A chiminea or a portable outdoor fireplace at private residences or within a developed park, campground, or picnic area and are not closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area and not closer than 15 feet of a structure or combustible material, with covers, screens, spark arresters and grates is allowed during Archuleta County fire restrictions. 

• Any fires contained within liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices are allowed during fire restrictions.

This does not include any device that burns solid fuels such as wood or charcoal and which must be extinguished.

• Exemptions approved under this temporary fire restriction includes the following permitted fires: permitted fires by persons with a permit specifically authorizing the prohibited act such as professional firework displays, fire department/district training fires, burning of explosive wastes by manufacturers of explosives in areas zoned for industrial use when the burning is supervised by the fire protection district, open fires or open burning by any federal, state, or local officer in the performance of official fire suppression functions, individuals operating under any of the above exemptions shall take adequate measures to prevent uncontrolled fires.

• Tiki torches at private residences or within a developed park, campground, or picnic area and are not closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area and not closer than 15 feet of a structure or combustible material is allowed during Archuleta County fire restrictions.

• Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame within an area that is barren or cleared of all combustible material at least 10 feet on all sides from the equipment is allowed during fire restrictions.

Welding and cutting torch appliances, as described in the definition section, may only be operated in an area no closer than 30 feet from an undeveloped area.

• Approved wood pellet grills are exempt under these temporary fire restrictions.

• 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 (970) 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 resolution adds, “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.”

randi@pagosasun.com