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Feds, tribe up fire bans, town and county next

Staff Writer

Stage II fire restrictions, commonly referred to as a burn ban, are now in effect for public lands and tribal lands within Archuleta County, with the ban set to include more lands by next week.

As of Tuesday, July 2, both the San Juan National Forest (the portion that was previously under Stage I restrictions) and Southern Ute Indian tribal lands were under Stage Two restrictions.

On Wednesday, July 3, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management elevated to Stage II restrictions for lands in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata and Montezuma counties.

Private lands within unincorporated Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs are set to follow next Tuesday, July 9.

On June 19, many area entities instituted Stage I restrictions.

Public lands

Fire restrictions have been elevated to Stage II for public lands within the San Juan National Forest and BLM.

While only a portion of the San Juan National Forest was under fire restrictions previously, the entire forest is now under varying degrees of restrictions.

Lower elevations are being upgraded to stricter Stage II restrictions and higher elevations now under Stage I fire restrictions.

The National Forest is divided into two zones, with Zone I covering lower elevations and Zone II covering higher elevations. Those zones are depicted on restriction maps. The boundary line between the two zones bisects the national forest roughly from east to west, following identifiable jurisdictional boundaries, roads and trails at approximately 8,500 feet.

Lower and middle elevations south of the line are now under stricter Stage II fire restrictions, with all open fires banned.

Higher elevations north of the boundary line are now under Stage I fire restrictions, which allow open fires only within designated campgrounds.

Specifically, lower and middle elevations of the San Juan National Forest, shown as Zone I on restriction maps, are under the following restrictions:

• All open fires and campfires are banned;

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

• Chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines must have approved, working spark arresters and chainsaw use must be accompanied by a shovel and fire extinguisher;

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

• Use of explosives is prohibited.

Specifically, higher elevations of the San Juan National Forest, shown as Zone II on restriction maps, are under the following restrictions:

• Campfires are limited to permanent fire rings or grates only within developed campgrounds;

• Smoking is limited to within vehicles, buildings, or 3-foot wide areas cleared of vegetation;

• Chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines must have approved, working spark arresters (this restriction is always in effect on National Forest Lands);

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

• Use of explosives is prohibited (possession and use of fireworks are always prohibited everywhere on federal lands.).

For more information, contact the SJNF at 247-4874.

In addition to those restrictions listed above, the following is also prohibited on BLM lands:

• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, wood or charcoal-fueled stove.

Exception: Pressurized liquid-fueled stoves with an on/off switch or valve.

• Possessing or using a motor vehicle or OHV off established roads, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway; and except for parking overnight in developed campgrounds and trailheads.

Exemptions to the Stage II restrictions include authorized activities of any federal, state or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting effort in the performance of an official duty. Additionally, holders of valid BLM permits, leases and authorizations are allowed to conduct approved activities, but are advised to take extra precautions to prevent fire starts.

To determine fire restrictions throughout Colorado, please visit http://www.coemergency.com/p/fire-bans-danger.html.

Tribal lands

According to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Stage II fire restrictions are scheduled to be implemented for all trust lands throughout the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, including lands within Archuleta County, due to continued high temperatures, extremely dry fuel conditions and the occurrence of recent wildland fires.

Current weather and fuel conditions are at historic levels and any fire has the potential to grow rapidly. Everyone needs to be extremely cautious when out in the forest and outdoors this time of year.

Stage II fire restrictions prohibits acts for the general public, commercial operators and industrial oil and gas operators performing work on the Southern Ute Reservation.

The restrictions will remain until conditions improve.

For more information, call (970) 563-4571.

County and town

While not yet under Stage II restrictions in order to allow more freedoms during Fourth of July festivities, Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs are slated to upgrade their fire restrictions beginning next Tuesday, July 9.

Archuleta County Director of Emergency Management Drew Petersen said he anticipates asking the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners to upgrade the restrictions to Stage II on Tuesday.

Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem said the town will follow the county’s lead.

“We definitely want people to be very responsible with their fire use,” Petersen said. “It’s still extremely dry.”

And while fires are not yet banned on private lands, Petersen noted that extreme caution should be practiced.

In the event of any campfires, Petersen noted that a water source and hand tools should be on hand, and fires should be extinguished to the point that it is cold to the touch when running your hands through it.

“We can’t stress enough,” Petersen said, “If you have a fire, be especially prudent.”

Petersen said the goal is to be ready to devote fire resources to uncontrollable lightning strikes, versus responding to human-caused fires, which are preventable.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on July 3, 2013.