Hunters urged to be cautious in fire areas
All fire restrictions have been lifted in Northwest Colorado, but officials are warning those who wander into the woods this fall to be careful.
Summer fires created new hazards in the forest, and fires can still start, even as temperatures continue to dip, said Jon Silvius, public affairs officer for Routt National Forest.
Silvius said fires changed the landscape of many forests, and said an area that someone might have hunted last year could be significantly different this year.
Hunters should be aware of “stump holes,” he said, which are holes filled with ash and hot coals.
Fires can burn for a long time in stumps and roots, even after a fire has been contained and temperatures have cooled, he said.
Other hazards hunters should watch for are “snags,” or trees that are still standing but have been weakened because trunks that have burned.
“The tree may have been burned partially through, but it is still standing,” he said. “These trees have been weakened and may be ready to come down.”
In the fire-fighter business, those trees have been nicknamed “widowmakers,” he said.
In addition to being aware of leftover hazards, hunters need to be careful not to start new fires, he said.
“A lot of places are still dry,” he said. “The big problem is people who equate cold as being safe from fire. Forests can still burn.”
Charley Martin, fire ecologist with the Bureau of Land Management, agreed that while conditions have improved, they could quickly change.
“The fire danger has been decreasing steadily over the past two weeks and puts us in the ‘low’ to ‘moderate’ rating,” he said. “However, if dry, windy conditions develop, vegetation could dry out quickly.”
Fire restrictions that were in place for most of the summer have been removed from Grand, Jackson, Routt and Moffat counties. They have also been removed from the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, White River National Forest, Dinosaur National Monument, Browns Park Wildlife Refuge and all Bureau of Land Management public lands within the above mentioned counties.
A list of warnings and tips released by the Craig Interagency Dispatch Center include:
It is unlawful to leave a campfire unattended and citations will be issued.
Keep plenty of water and a shovel handy and drown all fires completely. Stir the remains, add water and stir again.
Extinguish and dispose of all smoking materials away from the fuel source.
Clear area of brush and grass around campfires and use existing fire rings or pits when possible.
Use approved spark arresters on chain saws and other internal combustion powered equipment.
The use of fireworks is always illegal on public lands.
According to the local forest service, possible hazards that still can be encountered in the forests include:
Fire itself. Even months after the fire is declared controlled or out, it’s not uncommon to find an occasional log with glowing coals coming from the inside.
Stump holes, which are stumps and roots that continue to burn after a fire is out.
Snags, which are trees that have been weakened because they were partially burned.
Unstable hillsides, which were once supported by vegetation, could contain rocks and logs that could roll down a hill unexpectedly.
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