Rain may not be enough to douse wildfire worries | AspenTimes.com

Rain may not be enough to douse wildfire worries

Janet Urquhart

Though recent deluges have sent mud pouring into basements in Snowmass Village and Basalt, fire restrictions continue in both the White River National Forest and Pitkin County.For the time being, campfires remain relegated to campground fire rings and smoking outdoors is a no-no. But some local agencies are evaluating the need for a clampdown on burning in light of the arrival of the monsoon season a little more than a week ago.Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties all have restrictions in place, as does the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.The Forest Service is examining the long-range forecasts for the White River, which surrounds Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, but it doesn’t take the decision to lift restrictions lightly, said Kristi Ponozzo, public affairs specialist at White River headquarters in Glenwood Springs.The agency doesn’t want to lift the restrictions prematurely, only to impose them again later, she said.”We are talking about it,” she added. “We know we’ve gotten a lot of rain lately.””It’s up for consideration, definitely, to lift the ban,” said Joe DiSalvo, director of investigations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.The sheriff’s office generally follows the Forest Service’s lead, and DiSalvo said he intends to ask fire chiefs in the mid and upper valley for input on whether to lift the county’s fire restrictions.Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob, who has been examining fire-danger ratings for the area, as well as the long-range weather forecasts, said Tuesday that he would be comfortable lifting the restrictions.”Certainly, from the perspective of the Aspen Fire District, I think conditions would warrant that,” he said.But, he noted, Aspen tends to be wetter than the lower elevations of both Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley. Grob said he generally defers to fire chiefs in Basalt and Carbondale when it comes to making a uniform call to lift fire restrictions, since fire danger in those areas can be more severe than it is in Aspen.Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach is not advocating any change in the fire restrictions that went into effect last month.”We don’t have any intention of lifting the fire restrictions,” he said Tuesday. “The little bit of rain we’ve gotten in the last few days was very nice, but in the big picture, it has done little to reduce the fire danger.”Carbondale is in Garfield County, but part of the Carbondale Fire Protection District reaches into Pitkin County – in the Redstone area.In Aspen, the city’s Water Department recorded precipitation on each of the first 10 days of this month, save July 4, for a total of 2.5 inches. For the entire month of June, the department’s rain gauge measured precipitation on just two days, for 0.30 inches total.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com