Northwest Colorado remains under Stage 2 fire restrictions
Garfield County restrictions continue for 'safety of our communities'
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Federal land agencies in northwest Colorado will maintain Stage 2 fire restrictions for the time being while they wait to see if recent rains have offset the region's severe wildfire hazard.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario also said the entire county will remain under Stage 2 restrictions. In a statement released Monday afternoon, Vallario said the decision to maintain restrictions was made along with fire districts and city and town officials, "based on the local weather conditions, fire fuels, resources available and the risk to the safety of our communities."
To the west, the Mesa County Sheriff, the Grand Junction Fire Department, and the Mesa County fire chiefs have eased the Stage 2 restrictions on private and state lands to allow campfires in approved fire rings at state parks and the use of outdoor charcoal grills.
But for federal lands in northwest Colorado, Stage 2 restrictions will still be enforced.
"We are not at this time going to rescind the Stage 2 restrictions, although it is being considered," said Pat Thrasher, spokesman for the White River National Forest.
The Stage 2 restrictions prohibit campfires, outdoor smoking, fireworks, explosives, welding, using equipment such as chainsaws without a spark arrestor, and parking off roads except in parking lots or widely cleared areas.
When the restrictions were imposed June 22, Colorado had moved from a winter with record low snowpack into a spring with very little rainfall. Wildfires along the Front Range had already burned thousands of acres and hundreds of homes, and claimed four lives. The Waldo Canyon Fire would erupt the following day.
On Sunday, after four days of rain across parts of Colorado that unleashed mudslides on some burned-over slopes, Gov. John Hickenlooper rescinded the statewide fire ban that he imposed June 14. The governor noted that local restrictions still apply.
For the White River National Forest, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Unit and several state parks, Stage 2 restrictions remain in place, covering most public lands in the northwest quadrant of Colorado.
"It's been raining, but it hasn't been consistent across the whole area," Thrasher said. "We want to get enough precipitation and fuel moisture data over a wide area to know we have the kind of trend developing that would warrant rescinding the order."
Thrasher said officials will be consulting with regional fire weather specialists to determine whether a stable monsoon pattern is under way and if rainfall will be occurring over a wide enough area for trees and shrubs to regain enough moisture to resist fire.
Prior to the rains of the past few days, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, with offices in Rifle and Grand Junction, reported vegetation moisture content of 3 to 8 percent, and soil moisture at less than 5 percent.
As of Friday, the Rocky Mountain area states of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska are at a preparedness level 5, topping out a scale of 1 to 5, and more than 2,700 people were actively fighting fires in the four-state region.