Mar 172005
 
Authors: Sarah Rawley

 

These guidelines were recommended by Gordon for basic fire restriction awareness on National Forest Service land.

* in general use an area free of vegetation or an existing fire metal ring if available

* fires must be fully extinguished before leaving

* bring extra water and a shovel to put out fire

* fires must be 100 ft. from water and trails in non wilderness zones

* fires must be 200 feet from water and trails in wilderness zones

* some wilderness areas are closed to fires and or camping altogether

* call 970-295-6700 for information on closures and special regulations or visit

2150 Centre Avenue Building

For information and maps regarding current fire ban or restrictions visit www.fs.fed.us/r2/fire.

Severe drought conditions in recent years have scarred Colorado's landscape.

Intense forest fires are to blame and humans are often the cause. Historically, the summer is Colorado's most vulnerable months for fire-danger potential.

This year is no exception.

Although the National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services group predicted a moderate fire season in the mountains because winter storms have brought heavy rain and snow as of March, every spring and summer brings new potential for the fire restrictions.

"All it takes is a-three-hot-and-dry-weeks to make (for) prime fire conditions," said Jen Chase, project forester with Colorado State Forest Service.

Spring Break is just around the corner, and although there are no current fire bans, when venturing into the outdoors, it is important to be aware of current fire restrictions.

"A fire ban is when fire conditions are extreme. We have had fires start as early as April or May," Chase said.

There are different fire restrictions in different areas of Colorado. These depend on current weather conditions and who has jurisdiction over the land.

Generally, the National Park Service, which encompasses Rocky Mountain National Park, will have stricter fire limits.

The higher elevation of Rocky Mountain National Park makes it less conducive to extreme fire danger. However, fires are only allowed at designated campsites and backcountry locations to protect the pristine environment.

"In a sense, we always have a fire restriction in place, because we designate only certain areas where fires can be held," said Scott Sticha, fire education specialist for Rocky Mountain National Park.

On National Forest Service land, which includes the Poudre Canyon and Big Thompson corridor, an open fire is allowed with the exception of designated wilderness areas, said Jane Gordon, a fire prevention officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

It is too early to predict exactly the condition Colorado will be in come summer, however the months of March and April do determine whether or not a fire ban or restrictions will go into effect.

"This February has been very dry, but we don't know what will happen until we see the precipitation situation this spring," Gordon said.

The last three consecutive summers, a fire ban has gone into effect in Larimer County.

The fire ban was in place all summer long in 2002 because of the extreme drought conditions, and the human-caused fires of Hayman and Big Elk on National Forest Service land, Gordon said. The Hayman fire was the largest in Colorado's history.

The Big Elk fire resulted in three pilot fatalities, and was caused by a faulty catalytic converter on a vehicle over dry grass.

Gordon said it is criminal charge to start a forest fire by negligence.

In general it is important to remember when making fires to never leave it unattended, and to make sure it is cold to touch before leaving it. It is also important to pack out all garbage and trash.

Increased patrol around spring break will check to make sure travelers maintain a minimal impact on the land.

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