Forest officials clear way for Labor Day campfires
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Just in time for Labor Day camping, Pitkin County and White River National Forest officials are lifting their summertime bans on open burning.
Lower temperatures and recent rain have lowered the risk of wildfires, and both jurisdictions are in the process of ending their burning restrictions. Eagle County and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are also lifting bans.
Pitkin County’s ban on open burning was dropped as of noon Tuesday. The fire ban in the White River forest will be lifted Friday. The restriction in Eagle County ended at midnight Wednesday.
Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said that Pitkin County has had moderate fire conditions for about a week, reduced from the extreme status he has seen for most of the summer. Local jurisdictions and national forest officials implemented this summer’s fire bans in early July, after several weeks of dry weather.
Restrictions were placed on campfires, cigarette smoking and certain types of barbecue grills.
The news is good for residents who have waited to find out if they could gather around a campfire on one of the last big camping weekends of the summer.
“I want our locals and visitors to enjoy the holiday, but of course I expect that they will burn responsibly,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.
Officials are still cautioning about the risk of fire danger and the large amount of wildfire fuels available. Daytime temperatures are still reaching the mid-80s.
The U.S. Forest Service recommends building, maintaining or using campfires or wood-burning stoves in areas away from vegetation that can be an ignition source. Campfires should be monitored at all times and never left unattended.
The Forest Service also recommends building campfires on bare soil with no overhanging branches, and keeping a minimum of 3 gallons of water available within 30 feet of the fire. To extinguish a fire completely, the flames and coals should be doused with water, stirred with a shovel and doused again.
The fire area should be cool to the touch before it is abandoned, and large fires should be allowed to burn down when high winds are present. People should continue to be careful with cigarettes and motorized equipment that can ignite fires in dry areas.
This year the Grand Junction dispatch center reported that people started 12 of the fires called in this summer, said Sue Froeschle, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest.
Although many other counties near the White River National Forest are planning on terminating their fire bans, visitors should check with fire protection districts in those areas before lighting campfires, Froeschle said.
Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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U.S. Forest Service ready to make happy campers with the opening of facilities in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.