Craig City Council passes fire ban

In other action ...

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Craig City Council:

• Received an update from Betsy Nauman Cook, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership director. The grand opening for a new business incubator is scheduled for Sept. 11, 12 and 13, she said.

• Approved, 7-0, an engineering contract with Drexel Burrell & Co. for a Safe Routes to School sidewalk project, slated for construction near Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary School. The city will pay the firm up to $37,166 for the work, according to its agreement with the company.

• Heard a report from Water and Wastewater Director Mark Sollenberger. Although the summer has been drier than usual, water restrictions probably won’t be necessary, considering the city can draw from Elkhead Reservoir and has senior water rights, Public Works Director Bill Earley said.

Quotable

“It goes without saying that Colorado is burning up. We don’t need to add to that.”

— Byron Willems, Craig City Council member, about the council’s unanimous decision Tuesday to impose a ban on fireworks and open burning within city limits

The Craig City Council took swift and unanimous action Tuesday to enact a fire ban in the wake of searing temperatures and raging wildfires throughout the state.

“To me, this makes so much sense,” council member Byron Willems said before the vote. “It’s so obvious. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen it this dry.”

The ban takes effect immediately and prohibits all fireworks and open burning inside city limits.

Lighting campfires in permanent pits at recreation sites also is off-limits.

Pressurized, liquid-fueled and gas-fueled stoves and grills are exempt from the ban, as are fires stoked in fireplaces and in charcoal grills at homes and businesses.

Violating the temporary ban could mean up to $1,000 in fines and 180 days in jail, which is the standard maximum penalty for most municipal code violations, City Manager Jim Ferree said after the meeting.

The ban means local law enforcement officers will use a stiffer hand in prosecuting offenders.

In the past, Craig Police Department officers usually issued warnings to residents shooting off fireworks in the city, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

“But this year, it’s going to be, ‘If we catch you, you’re going to get a ticket,’” he said.

The city probably won’t have to bolster law enforcement staffing as a result of the ordinance, but “I’m guessing that we’ll get a few more calls,” Ferree said.

The ban is effective for 61 days and will expire automatically unless the council votes to extend it.

Council members voiced unequivocal support for the ordinance, which comes after similar restrictions were enacted for the state and Moffat County.

“It goes without saying that Colorado is burning up,” said Willems, who also serves as Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board president. “We don’t need to add to that.”

Mayor Terry Carwile also highlighted fires throughout the state as a justification for passing the ban.

“It doesn’t take very long to watch TV to see every nightmare scenario imaginable” including loss of life and property in fires around Colorado, he said. “This is definitely the right thing to do."

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