County fire ban on

Sheriff: Conditions to worsen through summer

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The Moffat County commissioners passed an open fire ban in unincorporated areas of Moffat County Tuesday morning.

They did so under advisement of Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

"All the indicators show severe to extreme fire conditions," Grinstead said. "Based on those indicators I make a request that we put a fire ban on for the entire county."

While fire danger is high right now, he said it is nothing compared to what it might be later in the summer. The river flow right now is where it normally would be in August, he said.

"The conditions right now aren't troublesome but what concerns me is we're only in June," he said.

Moffat County commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton both voted in favor of the countywide ban.

Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson was absent because he was at a meeting in Grand Junction.

"I think it's best to adopt a resolution for an emergency fire ban for all of Moffat County," Raftopoulos said. "Signs need to be placed by the Road and Bridge Department as soon as possible."

Road and Bridge Department Interim Director Bill Mack said Road and Bridge Department employees were posting signs at every road coming into Moffat County Tuesday.

The open fire ban in Moffat County comes on the heels of Gov. Bill Owens' plea to counties last week to ban fires.

Owens asked county governments, municipalities and federal land agencies that had not yet implemented a ban on open fires and fireworks to reconsider their circumstances and implement restrictions as they saw fit. Grinstead said the state has also passed down the recommendation that anyone caught not abiding by the temporary fire bans be charged with reckless endangerment, a Class 3 Misdemeanor. According to the definition, a person who recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person commits reckless endangerment.

Lynn Barclay, fire mitigation expert for the Bureau of Land Management, attended Tuesday's meeting and said it was important that the local government pass the ban.

"In light of the conditions we're experiencing this was the right move to make," she said. "The county and sheriff realize that having consistent county, state and federal rules makes it easier for the public to understand the restrictions. The message they are trying to get across is the best way to prevent fires is not to start fires."

Dick Franklin, regional fire manager in the California Desert District is in Moffat County to support the local BLM in fire planning and also attended Tuesday's meeting.

"The potential for wildfires here is pretty great," he told commissioners. "I strongly endorse your resolution because you have a long summer ahead of you."

Barclay said she believes the current conditions cater to wildfire breakouts.

"There's enough dead grass for fuel already," Barclay said. "People need to realize how fast these fires can spread."

Grinstead said areas in the county of considerable concern where people should exercise extra caution include Wilderness Ranch, Baker's Peak and the Maybell area.

Fire trucks have been "pre-staged" in Maybell, Vermilion Basin and on the Peroulis Ranch north of Craig, Grinstead said.

Local officials are meeting every Monday at noon to discuss the current fire conditions and the availability of resources, Grinstead said.

Unlike Routt County, which has cancelled its Fourth of July fireworks display, the Fourth of July fireworks display in Moffat County is still on schedule, he said.

"At this point the fire department still plans on holding the fireworks display," Grinstead said. "I endorse it. We don't have the tall trees here like they do in Routt County."

Grinstead also noted that people could be granted permits to burn fires. People need to contact the sheriff's office for a permit to burn on private land and the BLM for a permit to burn on federal land, he said.

Activities prohibited under the fire ban include:

Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire to burn trash, debris, fence rows or vegetation, any campfire, warming fire or charcoal grill; except in designated campgrounds, picnic areas or developed recreation sites where permanent fire pits or fire grates are located.

Smoking; except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least three feet in diameter that is barren and cleared of all flammable material.

Operating a chainsaw without a USDA- or SAE-approved spark arresting device properly installed and in effective working order, and a chemical-pressurized, five-pound fire extinguisher, and one round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

The extinguisher shall be with the chainsaw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies but readily available for quick use.

Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame; except within an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material at least 10 feet on all sides from the equipment. Possession of a chemical-pressurized, five-pound fire extinguisher, and one round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches is also required. The extinguisher and shovel may be kept with the welding supplies but must be readily available for quick use.

Using explosives requiring fuses or blasting caps.

Discharge of any fireworks is prohibited.

Exemptions from open fire ban include:

Persons with a valid written permit from the jurisdictional federal agency or sheriff of the respective county that specifically authorizes the prohibited act.

Any federal, state, or local officer or member of the organized rescue or fire-fighting force in the performance of an official duty.

Any fires contained within liquid-fueled or gas fueled stoves, fireplaces within buildings, charcoal grill fires at private residences and permanent fire pits or fire grates located in developed picnic grounds and campgrounds.

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