Go ahead, light a campfire (if you can find dry wood) | AspenTimes.com

Go ahead, light a campfire (if you can find dry wood)

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Effective today at noon, White River National Forest officials are lifting the fire ban that has been in place for most of the summer.

Burning of any kind had been prohibited since June 13 on the 2.3 million-acre forest due to extremely dry conditions that developed during a summerlong drought punctuated by wildfires.

With the regular rain and snowfall of late, however, forest officials have deemed it safe to once again light campfires in the wilderness and at campgrounds. Charcoal grill use, which had also been subject to the restriction, is OK now, too.

Pitkin County?s own ban on open burning was lifted last week by Sheriff Bob Braudis on the advice of area fire chiefs.

The unofficial tally for September precipitation at the Aspen water plant was 3.3 inches, more than double the 1.3 inches of rainfall recorded in August.

?We’ve had considerable rainfall during the past few weeks, and we are projecting continued cooler and wetter days ahead,? said Steve Deitemeyer, acting forest supervisor. ?I am pleased we can finally provide the public with an opportunity to enjoy campfires this year on their public lands.?

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Forest officials are reminding the public, however, that hazards remain as a result of forest fires that consumed more than 44,000 acres across the White River National Forest this year. Some trails are subject to erosion, and high winds may bring down dead, standing trees. Campers are advised to select campsites that are a safe distance from unstable trees.

In addition, some fires in the White River are not considered extinguished and could rekindle if dry, windy conditions return. Forest officials are continuing to monitor the Big Fish fire in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, the Coal Seam fire outside Glenwood Springs, the Spring Creek fire outside New Castle and the Thompson Creek fire near Carbondale.

?We are particularly concerned about hunters on the forest, particularly out-of-state hunters who may not be aware of the specific locations of fires on the forest,? Deitemeyer said.

The Forest Service is working closely with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in providing information to hunters. Maps with locations of the fires on the forest are available at any of the Forest Service?s offices in the White River, including Aspen, Carbondale, Dillon, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Meeker, Minturn and Rifle.

In the area of the Spring Creek fire, several trails remain closed to the public. These include: Spring Creek Trail No. 2068; the East Elk Creek or Centennial trail No. 1841; Hadley Gulch Trail No. 1840; and Boiler Springs Trail No. 1843. These trails will be closed until Sept. 30, 2003, or until such time as they can be safely cleared.

Anyone who spots a fire should report it immediately by calling 911.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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