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Increase in moisture leads to change in fire restrictions

With the moisture received recently, fire danger in Pagosa Country has lessened, though the area is still in fire season.

With that lessened fire danger, areas of Archuleta County have been downgraded to Stage 1 fire restrictions, though the national forest remains under Stage 2 restrictions.

“We have seen rain,” said Drew Peterson, Archuleta County director of emergency management, during Tuesday’s special meeting to lower the fire restrictions.

The lowering to Stage 1 restrictions, Peterson said, allows for more recreation in the area.

Another dry spell is in the forecast, Peterson indicated at the meeting, meaning hotter, drier conditions could be on the way to cause further fire danger.

Should fire danger increase or decrease, both the sheriff and Board of County Commissioners have the power to modify or rescind the restrictions.

Additionally, the sheriff maintains the power to allow exceptions to the fire restrictions within his jurisdiction.

In general, Stage 1 restrictions prohibit open burning, burn barrels, agricultural burning, explosives, and internal combustion engines (unless equipped with a spark arrestor).

Cutting and welding are allowed, but proper fire hand tools and 40 pounds worth of fire extinguishers or a pressurized water supply must be available and, if working away from a shop, a person identified as a fire watch is required to be standing by continuously.

Oil and gas operations are required to comply with the requirement of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Protection, Rule 606A.

Building, maintaining or using a fire, campfire, coal- or wood-burning stove, and open fire are prohibited in undeveloped areas.

While much is prohibited in light of the dry conditions across Pagosa Country, gas grills and barbecues at private residences and fires within designated campground pits with protective grates are allowed.

Also allowed are camp stoves, grills or lights fueled by bottled gas.

Public lands

Fire restrictions remain at Stage 2 for public lands managed by the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office in southwestern Colorado.

Maps and information on the restrictions and affected areas are available at National Forest and BLM offices in southwestern Colorado. Maps are also posted online at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan and www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/sjplc.html.

For more information, contact the San Juan Public Lands Center at 247-4874.

Higher elevation (Zone 2)

Higher elevations, which are denoted as Zone 2 on public lands fire maps, are now under Stage 1 restrictions.

• Building, maintaining, attending or using a campfire or other type of fire is limited to permanent fire rings or grates within developed campgrounds.

Exempted are petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices.

• Smoking is limited to an enclosed vehicle or building, or within a 3-foot-wide area cleared of vegetation.

• Chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines must have approved, working spark arresters.

• Welding or use of acetylene and other torches with an open flame is prohibited.

• Use of explosives is prohibited, including fireworks, blasting caps or any incendiary device that may result in the ignition of flammable material.

Lower elevation (Zone 1)

Fire restrictions for lower elevations, denoted as Zone 1 on maps, have been upgraded to Stage 2. All of the restrictions in place for Stage 1 restrictions (see above) are in place, with the addition of the following:

• Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire, campfire or wood stove is completely prohibited.

• Smoking is only allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building.

• Use of chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines must be accompanied on site by a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than eight ounces weight capacity, and a size zero or larger round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

The restrictions will last until each agency deems the fire danger to be low enough to lift them in its district and, by the same token, may be increased should another dry spell hit and cause increased probability of burns.

randi@pagosasun.com

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