Fires now banned, except in campsites |

Fires now banned, except in campsites

The U.S. Forest Service banned fires in the White River National Forest except in campgrounds and picnic areas effective at noon today.

The restrictions are needed because conditions are so dry and an increased number of wildfires in the region has depleted personnel and equipment available to battle future blazes, according a statement released by Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle’s office.

Aspen has received scant rainfall since mid-June. The first rain of July came Tuesday when only 0.25 fell. The last significant rainfall prior to that was on June 13.

For the year to date, only about 60 percent of the average of 10 inches of precipitation has fallen in Aspen.

Conditions are so dry that the moisture content of some trees and vegetation has dropped to single digits – drier than the 10 percent level typically found in kiln-dried wood purchased at a lumber yard, according to John Denison, district forester in the Grand Junction office of the Colorado State Forest Service.

The U.S. Forest Service implemented the fire restriction to try to limit the potential of human-caused blazes. The use of charcoal broilers as well as wood or coal stoves are also banned except in developed campgrounds and picnic areas.

The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices is allowed, providing they meet the fire underwriters’ specifications for safety. The Forest Service advises campers and hikers to check with manufacturers to see if their stoves meet safety specifications.

Smoking is only allowed within a closed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

The ban will stay in effect indefinitely. Violators can be punished with a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, imprisonment for up to six months or both.

The fire restrictions were implemented less than a week after humans apparently caused two fires in the Dotsero area. The Dotsero Crater Fire, about 1.5 miles northeast of Dotsero, was 100 percent contained Monday. Three 20-person crews of firefighters “worked doggedly” to contain the fire to 1,232 acres, according to a Patricia McGuire, spokeswoman for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management office.

The cause remains under investigation. The fire started July 11.

A smaller blaze started the same day a short distance away near Coffee Pot Road into the Flat Tops. That fire burned only 20 acres. It was started when a backcountry fire that a camper thought was extinguished flared up, according to McGuire.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is]

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