Flame out

County and federal officials ban fires

Federal and local officials Tuesday followed the state's lead and banned open fires throughout Northwest Colorado.

The bans issued Tuesday by Moffat County commissioners and federal land managers mean fireworks and campfires outside of designated pits are not allowed this year.

Gov. Bill Owens banned open fires on all state lands last week.

"Current fire and fuel conditions are about a month ahead of normal," said fire management officer Cliff Hutton of the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit. "Pretty much like everywhere else in the state."

The county's ban applies to private property in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said fire conditions, combined with the upcoming holiday weekend, are concerns for officials.

"The long-term forecast isn't very good, Grinstead said. "With Fourth of July coming up, it's a huge concern, as well."

The last time Moffat County banned fires was in 2002, one of the worst fire years in the state's history.

The restrictions, which take effect today, also limit smoking to inside vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites and areas 3 feet in diameter that are clear of flammable debris.

Chain saws, except those with approved spark arrestors, also are banned.

Anyone who violates the fire restrictions on federal lands faces a fine of $5,000 and up to six months in jail.

Anyone found to have negligently or willfully started a wild land fire also could be accountable for the cost to fight that fire.

The ban takes effect in the Browns Park National Wildlife refuge Friday.

Refuge manager Lee Albright said the ban at the refuge is delayed because there won't be many campers there until this weekend.

Albright said the conditions at the refuge are probably similar to those in the rest of the region: dry, hot and windy.

"I think we're all pretty consistent," Albright said.

Lynn Barclay, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, said the conditions in the field make the restrictions necessary.

"It is driven for us by the extreme conditions and the availability of resources," Barclay said.

For more about the fire ban, residents can contact the Moffat County Sheriff's Office or the Bureau of Land Management.

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