Fire concerns increase in Roaring Fork Valley, no restrictions in place yet | AspenTimes.com

Fire concerns increase in Roaring Fork Valley, no restrictions in place yet

Fire crews work to battle a brush fire that broke out along the hillside just south of the Glenwood Springs Airport on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

FIRE SAFETY REMINDERS

Fire officials are asking people to remember a few things as conditions have changed:

Never leave fires or hot coals unattended and make sure your campfire is dead before you leave;

Do not throw cigarettes out a care window or on the ground;

All personal fireworks are illegal;

If you’re pulling a trailer, make sure the chains are not dragging;

Do not park, drive or idle on vegetation.

With the holiday weekend crowds descending and hunting season about to get into full swing, fire officials in the Roaring Fork Valley have not enacted fire restrictions but are very concerned and asking people to be especially mindful.

The warm, dry conditions the past few weeks have increased the fire danger significantly in the area and western Colorado. Two small brush fires were snuffed out Wednesday, one south of Glenwood Springs that burned more than 15 acres and another at Crown Mountain Park in Basalt that burned about a quarter-acre.

The Middle Mamm Creek Fire, which is about 10 miles south of Rifle, has burned more than 200 acres of dead and downed timber on forest service land. Lightning started the fire July 28.

“We are in an incredibly dry period and there is a great possibility we could have a fire because of the conditions,” Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said Thursday. “People just need to make good decisions.”

He said if the weather does not change over the weekend there is a “very real possibility” Stage I restrictions could be put in place. He said valley fire officials have a conference call scheduled for early next week to discuss the next step.

Parts of the White River National Forest near Dillon enacted Stage I restrictions Aug. 23, but those have not extended west to the ranger districts around Aspen.

The forest service said they base decisions about restrictions on specific moisture measurements in vegetation as well as weather forecasts, anticipation of greater human activity, an increased level of human-caused fires and the amount of current fire activity.

Roaring Fork Valley fire officials were hoping wet weather would move into western Colorado this past week, Thompson said, but it stayed away.

He said it was too late right before the holiday weekend to enact Stage I restrictions in the valley, which is why officials from the fire districts and Pitkin County sent out an update Thursday.

Valerie MacDonald, emergency manager for Pitkin County, said the county and other agencies “wanted to get the word out before the holiday weekend and hunting season and all of us are monitoring the conditions.”

During last year’s dry summer, Stage I restrictions, which include no open campfires or outdoor smoking among other measures, were put into place June 12 by Pitkin County, and the end of May by Garfield County officials.

Stage II restrictions were put in place in most of the valley and surrounding areas by June 29. The Lake Christine Fire broke out July 3 and eventually burned more than 12,500 acres on Basalt Mountain. It was ignited by two people using illegal tracer rounds at the Basalt shooting range.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning in western Colorado for all day Thursday but expects winds to be calm over the weekend.

The NWS forecast for Aspen through the Labor Day Weekend calls for highs in the mid to upper 80s and overnight lows in the mid-50s. Downvalley in Carbondale, highs will be in the 90s all weekend. There is no forecast for rain through the weekend other than a 20% chance Friday.

“Although mornings are cool, afternoon burn periods are still hot and dry with no relief in the weather forecast,” Thompson said. “We want everyone to be aware of the high fire danger.”

dkrause@aspentimes.com


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