A 'nasty' fire season

Local Hot Shot crew remains on schedule

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Dry conditions that pushed Gov. Bill Owens Tuesday to request the federal government declare a drought emergency in Colorado have set the stage for a "nasty fire season," Craig Fire Chief Roy Mason said.

"The dry weather means we could have a bad fire season people doing burns are probably going to have definite problems," Mason said. "The conditions have the potential for us to have a real nasty season.

"I hadn't heard the governor's latest announcement, but I know he's been calling on people to conserve water voluntarily."

For the Craig Hot Shot team, the early call-up won't effect them because they are one of the less experienced teams, crew superintendent Stew Gore said.

"We're scheduled to bring everybody in on the fifth of May, and it looks like we're going to stick to that," Gore said. "Usually, crews go through a mandated critical training each season before becoming available for duty as a 20-person crew. Since we are a newer crew, we'll get the full two weeks for training.

"With a more experienced crew, it is possible to be ready for an emergency with just 24 to 72 hours of training. To be on the safe side as new crew, we'll stick to the schedule for the two weeks of training."

The Hot Shot teams are federally funded 20-person units that specialize in wildfire suppression and control.

The teams are assigned to various agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. The crews are based throughout the United States and can be sent anywhere within the country to deal with wildfires.

There are no fire restrictions or bans currently in place for Moffat County.

Owens has released $450,000 in emergency funds to place 80 firefighters on duty six weeks early and keep three tanker planes and 25 wildfire-suppression trained prisoners on standby.

According to the Owens, some area of Colorado are dealing with the driest conditions they've experienced in a century.

"This is a statewide emergency that requires a statewide response," he said.

According to Associated Press reports, this is the first time in history that a governor has asked for this type of declaration.

A drier-than-normal winter has left forests, farmland and ranges in Colorado bone dry, and many streams and wells at a fraction of their normal levels. Since October, precipitation has been below normal across much of the West except for northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

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