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Fire restrictions for Pagosa area

Staff Writer

The vast majority of Archuleta County is now under Stage 1 fire restrictions, with many of the restrictions going into effect on Wednesday, June 19.

Those restrictions will remain in effect until further notice from each issuing agency.

Local agencies imposing Stage 1 restrictions include the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Archuleta County, the Town of Pagosa Springs, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Other agencies in the region imposing restrictions include the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, Mesa Verde National Park, and La Plata and Montezuma counties.

Only higher-elevation portions of the San Juan National Forest are free from the restrictions.

Fire managers believe the restrictions are necessary due to continued high temperatures, low humidity, high winds and dry fuels.

While many of the restrictions are the same across the agencies, there are some variations, and those interested in recreating in any specific area should seek more information on that area’s current restrictions.

BLM

Stage One fire restrictions on public land managed by the BLM prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except a fire within a permanent constructed fire grate in a developed campground.  Also, smoking is prohibited on public land except within 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.

The use of fireworks, flares or other incendiary devices is always prohibited on federal lands.  Additionally, operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order is always prohibited.

The BLM continuously monitors the conditions throughout the area and will modify the restrictions as needed.  Current weather patterns indicate a prolonged period of high temperatures, extremely low relative humidity and sustained high winds.  Additionally, the weather and fuel conditions are similar to those during historic large fire events in the region.

Federal agencies use a three-stage process to limit activities that could cause wildfires during drought conditions.  Stage 1 restricts the activities as indicated above.  Stage 2 includes all Stage 1 restrictions, plus prohibits welding; the use of chainsaws; and building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire or stove fire. Stage 3 prohibits all burning.

For more information, go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/district_offices/southwest.html. To determine fire restrictions beyond the BLM-administered lands in Colorado, go to http://www.coemergency.com/p/fire-bans-danger.html.

Forest Service

Stage One restrictions are in effect for lower- to middle-elevation portions of the San Juan National Forest, as follows:

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

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

• acetylene and other torches with an open flame are prohibited;

• the use of explosives is prohibited.

The restriction line bisects the national forest from east to west, following identifiable jurisdictional boundaries, roads and trails at approximately 8,500 feet, with only those areas south of the line covered by the above mandatory fire restrictions. These lower- to middle-elevations are dangerously dry, while upper elevations remain green, often with patches of snow and running water.

Additional firefighting resources (beyond those located at the West Fork Complex, see related story) have been prepositioned in the area as a precaution, including wild land firefighting crews, engines and air support.  Fire managers highly recommend the additional safety tips, even for areas not yet under restrictions:

• Dispose of cigarette butts in an ashtray or other appropriate container.

• Make sure chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines have approved, working spark arresters. Carry water, a shovel and fire extinguisher with you and operate within areas clear of flammable materials.

• Park vehicles in areas clear of vegetation.

• In higher-elevation areas where campfires are allowed, use established fire rings in areas clear of vegetation. Have a shovel and water handy, and put campfires out completely every time you leave camp.  Pour water on the ashes and stir until there is no smoke and ashes are cool to the touch.

• Remember that fireworks are never allowed on federal lands, even when restrictions are not in place.

More information, including maps of the specific boundaries area is available at San Juan National Forest offices and on the web at http://www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan/.

County and town

The county and town are also under restrictions that generally prohibit open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning. More specifically, the restrictions prohibit the following:

• 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.

However, charcoal fires in suitable containers, such as gas grills for barbecues at private residences or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates are allowed, provided they are not left unattended and are fully extinguished after use.

Allowed, too, are camp stoves, grills or lights fueled by bottled gas or pressurized liquid fuel for the purpose of camp cooking or illumination, provided they are not left unattended and are fully extinguished after use.

• Using explosive materials, such as fireworks, blasting caps or any incendiary device that may result in the ignition of flammable material are prohibited.

Only community fireworks displays that have been or may be approved and permitted by the Archuleta County sheriff are permitted.

• Smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreational areas, and areas 3 feet in diameter that are clear of all flammable vegetation.

• Internal combustion engines must have spark arresters and meet either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service standards or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practices.

• Cutting and welding operations must have fire hand tools and 40 pounds worth of fire extinguishers or a pressurized water supply immediately available, and a person identified as a fire watch standing by continuously when an ignition of natural fuels is possible.

• Oil and gas operations: Flaring for production wells is allowed, but a contact must be made to dispatch (731-2160), and compliance with the Rules for Fire Prevention and Protection must be met (Rule 606A).

Tribe

Stage One fire restrictions for Southern Ute tribal lands prohibit:

• Open burning of trash and/or yard waste.

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

• Campfires. 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 barbecues or fires for sweat ceremonies, however, such fires are not to be left unattended and are to be fully extinguished after use.

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

Fore commercial operators, the following restrictions are in place in addition to the list above:

• Gasoline-fueled engines shall be shut down during fueling operations if the fuel tank is an integral part of the engine.

• Firefighting equipment shall be readily available near all operations. During operations, a fire extinguisher with a capacity of at least 20 pounds shall be immediately accessible to workers. When operations are performed in locations where other than a minor fire might develop, a person shall be designated as a fire watch. The area surrounding the work shall be inspected at least one hour after the hot work is completed.

• Portable fire extinguishers shall be tagged showing the date of last inspection, maintenance or recharge. Inspection and maintenance procedures shall comply with the latest edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s publication NFPA 10.

• Oil and gas operations directives are intended to emphasize existing statewide rules, including Rule 606A and other applicable rules.

randi@pagosasun.com

 

This story was posted on June 20, 2013.