Area agencies announce Stage 2 fire restrictions

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

On Tuesday, a trio of regional agencies have announced the implementation of Stage 2 fire restrictions, with those restrictions going into effect yesterday, June 15.

Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in effect for several other areas, including Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs.

San Juan National Forest

In a press release, the San Juan National Forest (SJNF) explains the move to Stage 2 fire restrictions is based on “recent wildfire activity and persistent severe fire weather conditions” and the increased restrictions are to “reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”

The Stage 2 fire restrictions are in place until Dec. 31 unless rescinded earlier.

Stage 1 restrictions on the forest went into effect on May 20.

“Forest managers use several criteria to determine when to implement restrictions, including current and predicted weather, fuel moisture, fire activity levels and available firefighting resources,” the press release explains.

On Wednesday, the SJNF’s website listed fire danger in the Upper Fire Danger Area as very high and in the Lower Fire Danger Area as extreme.

“Stage 2 fire restrictions are a proactive way to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires, protect natural and cultural resources, and enhance public and firefighter safety,” the press release explains. “Forest visitors are asked to use extreme caution when fire restrictions are in place. Violations are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and/or by imprisonment for not more than six months.”

It notes 90 percent of all wildfires on public lands are started by humans.

“It is every forest visitor’s responsibility to recreate responsibly and follow best practices,” the press release states, adding that fires should be reported by calling 911.

Prohibitions under the SJNF’s Stage 2 fire restrictions include, but are not limited to:

• Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including fires in developed recreation sites (campgrounds and picnic areas), charcoal grills and barbecues, coal- and wood-burning stoves, and sheepherder’s stoves.

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building.

• Blasting, welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame.

• Operating or using any internal combustion engine without an effective, properly installed and approved spark arrestor.

• Operating a chain saw without an effective, properly installed and approved spark arrestor, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and shovel that meet requirements specified in the order.

• Using an explosive, which includes but is not limited to fuses, blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets, tracers and incendiary ammunition.

• Possessing or using a motor vehicle off established roads, motorized trails or established parking areas, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the vehicle.

Federal, state and local officers and members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force are exempt from the closure order.

 More information on the restrictions can be found in Forest Order SJNF-2022-08, which can be accessed at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.

The press release notes that visitors “may use stoves, grills and lanterns fueled by propane or other liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuels that meet manufacturer’s safety specifications. If you plan to visit the forest, be sure to practice One Less Spark vehicle safety guidelines by securing chains, checking tire pressure and properly maintaining your brakes.”

For information on current fire restrictions, conditions and recreation opportunities on the San Juan National Forest, call (970) 247-4874, visit the forest website or follow the forest on social media (Twitter and Facebook).

Southern Ute Indian Reservation

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe announced Tuesday its move to increased restrictions is due to “current high temperatures, dry fuel conditions and the occurrence of the recent wildland fires,” according to a press release.

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

Stage 2 restrictions implemented by the tribe prohibit the following acts for the general public, commercial operators, and industrial oil and gas operators performing work on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation:

• Open burning, including burning of trash and/or yard waste.

• Agricultural burning, including burning of crop land, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning and weed burning.

• Campfires, including building, maintaining or using a warming fire or campfire outside of officially designated or developed camp sites. Charcoal broilers and wood and coal stoves used outside of dwellings are classified as campfires and are also prohibited.

• Fireworks, including the possession, discharging or use of any type of fireworks.

• Smoking is restricted to designated areas, within structures or within vehicles equipped with ashtrays.

More information on the restrictions can be found at: https://www.southernute-nsn.gov/.

 The press release notes that individuals intending to use a campfire for ceremonial purposes, such as sweat, must contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Fire Office for approval prior to the ceremony. Please plan for ceremonies in advance to ensure proper approval has been granted.

Commercial and industrial restrictions can be obtained from the BIA Fire Office at 575 County Road 517 in Ignacio 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 press release states.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced Stage 2 restrictions for all lands administered by the Tres Rios Field Office, which includes lands in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, the southwest corner of Montrose and the western portion of San Miguel counties.

A press release notes the restrictions “align with local orders and guidelines to protect the public’s safety during high fire danger.” 

The restrictions will be in place until further notice.

“The hot and windy weather in Southwest Colorado is creating very high to extreme fire danger” said Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson. “Stage 2 fire restrictions will assist in reducing human-caused fires in the area until the monsoonal moisture arrives.” 

 The restrictions prohibit:

• Campfires, fires charcoal/fire pans or grills that are not portable, pressurized liquid fuel with a shut-off switch.

• Smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or in at least 3 feet in diameter in a barren area free of all flammable materials. 

• Explosive materials.

• Welding or operation of an acetylene or other similar torch with open flame. 

• Operation of any internal combustion engine, including chain saws, without a spark-arresting device properly installed and in working order, chemical fire extinguisher and shovel. 

 Fireworks are always prohibited on public lands. 

The press release explains violation of federal fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or both. In addition, those found responsible for starting wildfires will also face restitution costs of suppressing the fire. 

More information about fire prevention is available at: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/get-involved/fire-prevention. 

For West Slope Fire Information, visit: https://westslopefireinfo.com. 

randi@pagosasun.com