Editorial: Fire safety 101 | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Fire safety 101

Though the calendar won't agree for another week yet, outdoor conditions are telling us summer has arrived in Northwest Colorado. That means camping, hiking, cookouts, trips to the pool, outdoor festivals —and, unfortunately, wildfires.

Already, multiple blazes are popping up across the state.

In southwestern Colorado, the 416 Fire, first reported June 1, is burning in about 27,420 acres north of Durango, and containment is at 15 percent. About 20 miles northwest of this blaze, the Burro Fire, reported June 8, is burning in about 2,684 acres, with 0-percent containment.

Closer to home the Bocco Fire — limited to about 415 acres near Wolcott — is at 50-percent containment, and to our north, just across the Wyoming border, the Badger Creek Fire, now burning on more than 7,000 acres in Medicine Bow National Forest, has already destroyed three structures, and incident meteorologist Tim Mathewson said dry, windy conditions are expected through Friday, June 15, which will only complicate suppression efforts.

All this, and we're only two weeks into June. Things could change, of course, but by all indicators, we're in for a very active fire season.

Wildfire is a fact of life in the American Northwest, and when started by nature, they are part of an important natural cycle of regeneration and renewal and help reduce fuel loads to prevent bigger, more devastating fires in future.

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Unfortunately, most wildfires are not started by nature.

According to a study published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" in February 2017, 84 percent of U.S. wildfires reported between 1992 and 2012 were caused by humans, whether by failing to extinguish a campfire, carelessly discarding a cigarette or losing control of a controlled burn.

While there is currently no burn ban in Moffat County, most of the region — including our part of it — is under a red flag warning, meaning "critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will occur shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior," according to the National Weather Service.

For this reason, we advise residents and visitors to abstain from lighting any fires at all, and if these conditions persist, we also hope local leaders will seriously consider more stringent fire restrictions.

In the meantime, however, there are things we can all do to help ensure we're not the cause of a disaster. The Colorado Tourism Office offers the following precautions during times of elevated fire risk.

• Keep campfires small and manageable.

• Never let a fire burn unattended.

• Properly maintain and watch campfires.

• Do not build a fire at a site in hazardous, windy or dry conditions. Check to see if campfires are permitted.

• Do not build a fire if the campground, area or event rules prohibit campfires. Check with the campground or forest representative.

• Use an existing fire ring or fire pit. If there is not an existing fire pit, and pits are allowed, look for a site that is at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also beware of low-hanging branches overhead.

• Supervise children and pets when they are near fire.

• Never cut live trees or branches for fires.

• Fire restrictions and bans are set by local jurisdictions and by individual forest agencies. Check with the local sheriff’s office, fire department or the federal forest agency before lighting a campfire this summer.

• If you think it it may not be safe to light a campfire, it probably isn't.

• Properly extinguish and dispose of cigarettes. Never throw cigarette butts from car windows.

• When putting out a fire, water it until you can comfortably touch the embers with your bare hands.

The summer ahead promises a plethora of possibilities for outdoor recreation, and we hope everyone — residents and visitors, alike — will avail themselves of these opportunities.

But while you're out there having fun, please keep fire safety firmly in mind.

Remember, it only takes a single spark to give birth to an inferno.

Editorial Board

Renee Campbell, publisher

Jim Patterson, editor

Sheli Steele, advertising director

Tom Kleinschnitz, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.