Aspen-area fire danger remains high despite rain | AspenTimes.com

Aspen-area fire danger remains high despite rain

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Despite recent rains, the fire danger in and around Aspen remains extremely high, and all previously mandated fire restrictions are still in effect.

“The rain we’ve had doesn’t do a darn thing to change the fire ban,” Aspen Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven said Friday. “My feeling right now is that those rains haven’t put a dent in the issue.

“The Fourth is over, but the drought isn’t.”

In fact, the Stage 2 fire ban – which prohibits campfires, charcoal grill fires, outdoor smoking, explosives, fireworks and outdoor welding on all public and private lands – likely will be in place for the foreseeable future, according to Pat Thrasher, fire information officer for the White River National Forest.

“We’ve had some precipitation but not nearly an adequate amount over a wide enough area to feel comfortable rescinding the fire ban,” he said. While the Forest Service cannot say exactly how much rain must fall to have the fire ban lifted, “we would need fairly widespread precipitation for a period of several days to see a significant reduction in the fire risk,” Thrasher added.

Thrasher said that part of the problem is that the White River National Forest comprises a large and varied swath of land, so while one corner of the 2.3 million acre forest may see heavy rains and lessened danger, other areas might remain tinder dry.

Recommended Stories For You

“What we feel is appropriate – and what we need the public to understand – is that we need to leave the fire ban in place until we are sure the danger has been reduced across the entire forest,” he said.

In addition, much of the current rain has come with lighting. According to aspenweather.net, that trend continues with a chance of thunderstorms every afternoon and evening through the middle of next week.

“With lightning strikes, an ember can holdover for several days before a detectable fire erupts,” said Thrasher. “We need the public to remain vigilant; if you see something you think is smoke, go ahead and report it.”

Van Walraven agreed: “The greening of the hillsides is very deceptive. Even though it looks lush, it is still very, very dry and dangerous out there.

“We need the community to continue to respect this and be vigilant.”

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com