Fire ban could end next week

Sheriff to ask county commission at Monday's meeting to lift prohibition

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said he will advise local officials to lift the countywide fire ban at Monday's county commission meeting.

"That will be the recommendation," Grinstead said. "Rio Blanco County is the only one that's lifted its ban so far."

But officials are saying cooler temperatures, higher nighttime humidity and recent rains have eased conditions enough to begin lifting the restrictions in some areas.

County and Bureau of Land Management officials have been holding conference calls every week to discuss conditions and when it would be appropriate to lift the bans that have been in place since June.

The bans were put in place at the urging of Gov. Bill Owens.

After issuing a statewide fire ban in early June, Owens encouraged county governments, municipalities and federal land agencies to assess their conditions and do the same.

BLM Fire Mitigation Expert Lynn Barclay said Northwest Colorado officials would hold a conference call Tuesday at which time she suspected they would agree on a coordinated fire ban lift.

"From the readings we're getting on the fuel conditions, I anticipate that all counties and agencies might be able to lift their bans," she said. "But we need to remember that we're still in a drought and have dry fuels out there."

She said those planning to be outdoors this weekend should remember that the fire ban is still in place.

She also said if officials do elect to lift the ban next week, it is subject to change before winter.

"If we start getting a lot of human-caused fires and don't get any precipitation, we might have to put the ban back on until we begin to get snow," she said.

BLM Fire Ecologist Charley Martin said while conditions have improved, conditions still cater to fires.

"We've dropped out of the 'very high' to 'extreme' category into the 'moderate' rating for fire danger," Martin said. "That does not mean the potential for fires is over however. Vegetation is still dry from drought conditions and if we move into drying patterns, ignition is still possible."

Activities prohibited under the fire ban, which could be lifted next week, 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 chain saw without a USDA- or SAE-approved spark arresting device that is properly installed and in working order; and a chemical pressurized, five-pound fire extinguisher; and one round -pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

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. The user must also possess a chemical pressurized, five-pound fire extinguisher, and one round-pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

Using explosives requiring fuses or blasting caps.

Discharge of any fireworks.

At the meeting Monday, the commissioners are also scheduled to:

Swear in Robert Razzano as Moffat County treasurer.

Hear a natural resources update from Jeff Comstock.

Hear a Planning Department report by Sue Graler. Discussion items include the Borher Exemption that was tabled at the Sept. 9 meeting pending a site visit by the commissioners; consideration of the Sages Minor Subdivision, which the planning commission has recommended for approval; and building code public hearings, which are scheduled for October.

Hear an administrative department report from Deb Murray.

Hear a Public Works Department update by Rich Anderson.

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