Persistent drought conditions might extinguish some residents’ plans for an explosive holiday.
U.S. Forest Service-managed public lands within Grand County have been placed under fire restrictions as of Thursday, June 27. Public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management will also enter into fire restrictions beginning Tuesday, July 2. And Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson said he plans on recommending a countywide ban at a special Board of County Commissioners meeting scheduled for Friday, June 28. The Sheriff expects the ban to go into effect immediately.
“We try to do it all together – BLM, County and Forest Service – in order to give out a consistent message,” Johnson said.
The U.S. Forest Service and BLM bans are both Stage 1. Fires are still allowed in designated campgrounds, but prohibited in backcountry and undeveloped areas. Other restrictions include the use of fireworks or explosives, operation of machinery like welding torches and chainsaws, and smoking except within enclosed buildings or developed recreations sites. Similar fire restrictions are also in place at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Sheriff Johnson expects county bans to be similar to last year’s “first-level” restrictions, which prohibited open fires, use of fireworks and sale of fireworks within unincorporated Grand County.
When considering fire restrictions, land managers study conditions in seven categories that measure vegetation’s ability to burn, potential for fires to spread, impacts from current fires and projections for further drought or adverse weather.
According to Johnson, Grand County meets four of the seven restriction factor categories, placing the area at high fire danger.
The biggest concern is weather predictions and drought indicators. “The outlook appears to be poor with not much relief in sight,” Johnson said.
Restrictions are not anticipated for professional fireworks shows, like the Grand Lake and Kremmling fireworks on July 4 and the Granby fireworks at the Flying Heels Arena on July 6.
“We want the fire danger to be at an extreme danger before we restrict those shows,” Johnson said. “We’re not as bad or as dry as the rest of the state right now.”
With a Rocky Mountain National Park fire that burned 600 acres still smoldering nearby, Grand Lake’s plan to move forward with the fireworks show has caused some concern among residents, according to Town Manager David Hook.
“We’ll continue to stay in touch with the fire protection district, the sheriff’s office and our other area agencies, then have a dialogue about whether to hold the fireworks or not,” Hook said. “At this moment, yes, the fireworks are still on.”