Fire officials urge common sense

With what could be one of the worst wildfire seasons in the state's history already underway, officials are urging people to use some common sense.

Last week, the Thomas Fire burned 3,000 acres in western Moffat County, and in the past two days, fire crews have responded to three small brush fires near Craig.

John Twitchell, district forester for the Colorado State Forest service in Steamboat Springs, said that with the fire danger as high as it is, a little common sense can go a long way.

That means sometimes people shouldn't build fires when they're camping, said Twitchell, whose district includes Moffat County.

"Even on land where there isn't a fire ban, common sense should dictate that if it's a windy, dry day, you probably need to forgo having that campfire," he said.

It isn't just campfires that people need to be careful with, Twitchell said.

People need to wait until the fire conditions calm down before burning trash, and they need to be extra careful with charcoal grills, Twitchell said.

Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Chris Nichols said the conditions his crews have seen in recent weeks have been extremely dry.

"You have to take precautions any time you're around any dry fuel," Nichols said.

The conditions are so dry that any spark can start a fire, Nichols said.

Crews working on a railroad car started one of the fires this week, Nichols said.

Lynn Barclay, fire mitigation and education specialist for the Bureau of Land Management in Craig, said the fire conditions in Northwest Colorado are worse than last year. Northwest Colorado isn't the only region of the state experiencing these fire conditions, Barclay said.

The fire conditions right now are about a month ahead of schedule, Barclay said.

Usually, the hot weather, windy days and low humidity aren't seen until late July, Barclay said.

Fires typically don't grow as quickly or as large as the Thomas Fire did until later in the year, she said.

Plus, the Thomas Fire was active at night, when fires usually slow down because of increased humidity and lower temperatures, Barclay said.

Gov. Bill Owens announced Wednesday a ban on fires and fireworks on any state-owned lands.

Barclay said there could be a ban on fires on the rest of the land in Colorado by the middle of next week.

She also stressed that people need to leave fireworks displays to professionals this year.

"This is not the year for people to be setting off their own fireworks," Barclay said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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