Northwest Colo. keeps Stage 2 fire rules | AspenTimes.com

Northwest Colo. keeps Stage 2 fire rules

Heather McGregor
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Federal land agencies in northwest Colorado will maintain Stage 2 fire restrictions for the time being while they wait to see if recent rains have offset the region’s severe wildfire hazard.

“We are not at this time going to rescind the Stage 2 restrictions, although it is being considered,” said Pat Thrasher, spokesman for the White River National Forest.

The Stage 2 restrictions prohibit campfires, outdoor smoking, fireworks, explosives, using equipment such as chain saws without a spark arrestor, welding and parking off roads except in parking lots or widely cleared areas.

When the restrictions were imposed June 22, Colorado had moved from a winter with record-low snowpack into a spring with very little rainfall. Wildfires along the Front Range had already burned thousands of acres and hundreds of homes and claimed four lives, and the Waldo Canyon Fire would erupt the following day.

On Sunday, after four days of rain across parts of Colorado that unleashed mudslides on some burned-over slopes, Gov. John Hickenlooper rescinded the statewide fire ban that he imposed June 14. The governor noted that local restrictions still apply.

For the White River National Forest, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Unit and several state parks, Stage 2 restrictions remain in place, covering most public lands in the northwest quadrant of Colorado.

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“It’s been raining, but it hasn’t been consistent across the whole area,” Thrasher said. “We want to get enough precipitation and fuel-moisture data over a wide area to know we have the kind of trend developing that would warrant rescinding the order.”

Thrasher said officials will be consulting with regional fire-weather specialists to determine whether a stable monsoon pattern is under way and if rainfall will be occurring over a wide-enough area for fuel-moisture recovery.

Prior to the rains of the past few days, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, with offices in Rifle and Grand Junction, reported vegetation moisture content of 3 to 8 percent and soil moisture of less than 5 percent.

As of Friday, the Rocky Mountain-area states of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska are at a preparedness Level 5, topping out a scale of 1 to 5, and more than 2,700 people were actively fighting fires in the four-state region.

hmcgregor@postindependent.com