Despite decent moisture levels, wildfires still a concern heading into Memorial Day weekend

Fire management unit provides safety tips going into holiday weekend

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— The smoke visible near Elkhead Reservoir on Friday morning won’t be from a wildfire, but officials are nonetheless cautioning residents not to be careless with fires over the Memorial Day weekend.

Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Colorado River Conservation District officials are conducting a controlled burn at Elkhead Reservoir on Friday. The controlled burn, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., will take place off Elkhead Dam Road, also known as Moffat County Road 28. Deputies and Conservation District officials will be burning driftwood piles previously removed from Elkhead as part of an effort to improve boater and public safety.

The burn is expected to conclude at about 6 p.m. Elkhead Dam Road will remain open during burn operations, but drivers are asked to reduce their speed for firefighter safety.

Although moisture levels this year are significantly higher than a year ago, the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit is reminding residents not to take low fire danger for granted going into Memorial Day weekend.

“While our area has received rain and green-up is underway in fine vegetation, the larger fuels and trees still suffer from the effects of drought and are ready to burn,” said Colt Mortenson, a Northwest Colorado Fire Management officer. “We’ve responded to a number of small and single-tree fires from lightning associated with thunderstorms.”

Fire management officials said lighter vegetation, such as grass and shrubs, can dry out quickly. When combined with dead vegetation from last year, and depending on conditions, igniting light vegetation can easily fuel a large-scale fire.

Outdoor fire safety is always important, according to a news release. The following recommendations can help keep residents safe.

• Be aware of expected weather conditions

• Know if fire restrictions are in effect when recreating, because many locations have not received rain and are dry

• Clear campfire area of brush and grass well beyond the immediate fire ring

• Make “campfire soup” before leaving your campsite: drown campfire with water, cover and stir in dirt until coals are cool to the touch

• Extinguish smoking materials properly — hold matches until they are cold

• Park out of tall grass; hot catalytic converters can ignite fires

• Use approved spark arresters on internal combustion-powered equipment

• Fireworks are illegal on public lands

• Weakened or dead trees can fall without warning, so assess your camp area upon arrival

There are no fire restrictions in place in Grand, Jackson, Routt, Moffat or Rio Blanco counties going into the holiday weekend. However, leaving a campfire unattended is a fineable offense, the release states.

Anyone found responsible for the start of a wildfire can be held liable for a portion or all fire response actions. To view a statewide listing for fire restrictions, visit http://www.coemergency.com.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com

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