Fire officials not following Owens’ lead | AspenTimes.com

Fire officials not following Owens’ lead

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Despite last week’s damp, gloomy weather in Aspen, a ban on outdoor fires, except for gas grills, remains in place.

Gov. Bill Owens lifted the statewide ban on open burning last Thursday, on a recommendation from State Forester Jim Hubbard. The state ban was imposed June 4, but Hubbard said recent lower temperatures and higher humidity should keep fire danger to a minimum.

Even so, Pitkin County’s ban on open burning is still in effect and should be until the first snowfall of the season, said Tom Grady, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

At the Aspen Fire District, deputy chief Orrin Moon said he was “surprised” to hear that Owens had lifted the statewide ban.

“We’ve gotten a lot of moisture in the last week or so, but every day before that was very, very dry,” Moon said. “I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet.”

He said he has not heard any discussion about dropping fire bans in Pitkin County or Aspen.

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Grady said at the Thompson Creek fire last week just outside of Carbondale, the rain had only sunk two inches into the ground. Trees and grasses were still left extremely dry after the rains.

And after a fire passes though an area, Grady said the charred terrain doesn’t absorb precipitation, which then increases run off and erosion.

On Friday, the U.S. Forest Service fire ban was amended to allow the use of wood-burning heat and cook stoves inside the 10th Mountain Division huts. According to hut association officials, stoves and fireplaces had been taped up to enforce the ban, and guests in the huts were 100 percent compliant.

Outdoor fires at the huts are still prohibited.

Eagle County took the same stance as its southern neighbor, announcing Friday that its fire restrictions would continue.

Sheriff A.J. Johnson will continue to uphold his decision about restrictions on open burning on all lands in Eagle County, a department press release noted.

“Due to the unseasonable warm and dry weather patterns, all fire protection agencies are supporting the decision to continue restriction for all of Eagle County,” the release said.

“The restrictions most important to remember,” the release continued, are the countywide bans on wood- or charcoal-burning grills. Only propane stoves and grills are permitted.

Welding torches, explosive devices with fuses and small engines without spark arresters are still prohibited in the county, the sheriff’s office warned. Eagle County citizens are also asked to use caution when smoking outdoors.