Editorial: Take caution — The heat is on in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Take caution — The heat is on in Moffat County

Craig Fire/Rescue battles a grass fire off Round Bottom Road Monday, July 29.
Clay Thorp/Craig Press

This time last year, Moffat County was on fire.

There were fires in Dinosaur, near Maybell, on BLM land, on private ranches, and inside the Craig city limits. It seemed no area of our perfect Moffat County isolation was spared.

But it wasn’t just Moffat County. In July 2018, the whole State of Colorado had the highest number of active wildfires in the country. There were so many wildfires that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory for a portion of Northwest Colorado due to the smoke that blanketed our region.

Editorial Board

Samantha Johnston, general manager for Colorado Mountain News Media-West

Clay Thorp, reporter

Pete Pleasant, community representative

Desiree Moore, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.

This year has been different — very different. There was a late snow and a wet springtime, which helped make the Yampa River a torrent in March and April compared to the trickle the same time last year. Things were a bright and brilliant green these last few months, sometimes all the colors of the rainbow when the wildflowers were out. It was a time for us to enjoy the outdoors, the campfires and July 4 fireworks with little worry. It was a time for our area volunteer firefighters to breathe a little easier, and relax just a bit.

Now, much of that color is beginning to fade to grays and tans as our cheatgrass and other foliage begin to dry up into the perfect wildfire fuel. According to Craig’s Interagency Dispatch Center, there were 15 fire-related calls for service in May. That number rose sharply by the end of June to 55 and nearly doubled to 107 fire-related calls for July — many of them specifically for wildfires near Craig.  The fire danger rating in Craig and Moffat County has since been elevated to high — meaning all fine, dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily.

The county is starting to burn again, folks.

Mother nature can often be the cause of wildfires in Moffat County. A scattered thunderstorm might drop a few lightning bolts in an area of someone’s ranch that’s hard for crews to reach quickly, and the fire spreads before firefighters can control it.

But too often, fires begin from human causes — an unattended or poorly extinguished campfire, a welding project in the driveway with a few stray sparks, a controlled burn that gets picked up by the wind and quickly turns out of control, or a cigarette butt flicked carelessly out the window.

Some of the most destructive fires have started this way, which is why it’s important for all of us to do our part to prevent wildfires. That means extinguishing campfires properly, practicing proper fire safety and awareness on our construction sites and home projects, keeping grass and other foliage cut low and away from homes and buildings to create defensible space in the event a fire does occur.

It’s never a bad idea to consult fire officials or Craig’s interagency dispatch to get updates on conditions before venturing into the backcountry or initiating a controlled burn. With a little vigilance and some preparation, we can avoid much of the destruction and danger brought about by wildfire. There are still many months before the temperatures drop and the snow comes, so please — do your part to prevent fires.