County enacts limited fire ban |

County enacts limited fire ban

Pitkin County enacted its first fire ban of the summer Wednesday amid a stretch of hot, dry weather.

According to the Water Department, Aspen’s last rainfall was a 10th of an inch on June 21 – two and a half weeks ago. A total of 1.1 inches of rain fell in Aspen during the month of June, and it hasn’t rained yet this month.

Tom Grady, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said the fire restrictions will last as long as it’s dry, and could get more restrictive if there isn’t any rain soon. Campfires in designated spots are still allowed for now.

“It’s like last year,” he said. “The ban will last the duration of these droughtlike conditions.”

The county’s ban restricts building any fire that is not within a permanent fire pit or fire grate located in a designated campground, picnic area or developed recreation site. That includes fires for burning trash and debris.

Fires on liquid or gas stoves are still allowed, as are fireplaces in buildings and charcoal-grill fires at private residences.

Smoking is restricted to areas of at least 3 feet in diameter that are barren or cleared of all flammable materials, except for within enclosed vehicles, buildings or recreation sites.

Operating a chain saw without an approved device for preventing sparks and without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher or a shovel nearby is not allowed. The extinguisher should be kept with the chain saw operator, and the shovel can be kept with fuel supplies, but must be readily available.

Welding or other torch operations with an open flame should be done in an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material at least 10 feet on all side from the equipment.

Fireworks or any explosive requiring fuses or blasting caps are also prohibited.

The ban excludes anyone with a permit from a federal agency, the Pitkin County Sheriff or the local fire district.

Eagle County also enacted a fire ban Wednesday, and Garfield County already has a similar ban in place. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction offices are enacting the same fire ban today at noon.

According to Sue Froeschle of the White River National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service does not yet have a ban on its jurisdictions, but the topic comes up at weekly meetings.

“We check conditions, and if they’re extreme, our forest management officers give us a heads up,” she said. “But if we don’t have one in place, our law enforcement officers don’t enforce anything.”

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing their ban with support from fire chiefs in Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Carbondale. Because there are a number of different jurisdictions with various bans in the valley, the regulations in each area can be confusing. But one BLM official said people should just use common sense before building a fire.

“People should be very aware if they’re not sure what jurisdiction they’re in,” said Steve Hall from the BLM’s Grand Junction office. “People don’t have to be afraid to go out in the backcountry, but they have to use common sense and be very careful with fire. These current restrictions aren’t very severe.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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