County putting finishing touches on fire plan

A countywide fire plan will be in place next month, employees from the Moffat County Natural Resources Department reported to the county commissioners Monday.

"It's a good month before fire season, which is what we had hoped for," Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock said.

The department is putting the final touches on a plan that has been in the works since May of 2001.

The purpose of the plan is to "focus on resource benefits and reduction of hazardous fuels by restoring and maintaining the natural fire regime in a manner consistent with landowner desires and safety for both the public and firefighters."

The plan has been conducted in three phases.

The first was for the northwest corner of Moffat County, the second was for the southwest corner and the third, which is nearly complete, is for the eastern part of Moffat County.

In the past two years, every rural landowner in Moffat County was sent a letter requesting time to discuss how their land might or might not benefit from fires.

From those discussions, a fire plan was adopted.

The plan was first implemented last summer, when a 500-acre wildfire broke on Bureau of Land Management land near the privately owned Cross Mountain Ranch.

Had a plan not already been in place for that part of the county, the fire would have been extinguished immediately because of its proximity to private land.

But because the area landowners had already agreed to a plan that would allow a fire to burn on their property, the fire was allowed to work its natural course.

After a plan is submitted sometime in May, and time is allowed for public comment, the commissioners will be presented with a final plan for adoption.

If they approve it, a plan will be available that addresses fires throughout the entire county.

From then on, if a fire breaks on private land in the county, the landowner and surrounding landowners will first be contacted to see if they still agree with the terms agreed upon when they signed the fire plan.

The BLM, Sheriff's Department and Moffat County commissioners will then have to agree to let the fire burn.

If just one of those entities does not give the go ahead, the fire will be extinguished, Comstock said.

If they all say "let it burn," Comstock said, the fire will be allowed to burn.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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