Recent rains ‘take the edge off’ in Aspen area |

Recent rains ‘take the edge off’ in Aspen area

White River, BLM, Pitkin and Eagle counties will downgrade to Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday

Visitors walk back to the shuttle as rain falls over the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area in Aspen on Thursday, June 24, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Cooler temperatures and ongoing rain showers have convinced local and federal fire officials to drop from Stage 2 to Stage 1 fire restrictions at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The easing on restrictions was coordinated by the White River National Forest and the Colorado River Valley field office of the Bureau of Land Management as well as Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties. Garfield and Mesa counties had already been in Stage 1 and will remain.

“Most of the forest has received enough rain to take the edge off,” David Boyd, public information officer for the White River National Forest, said Tuesday. “The rains really helped get us out of the extreme fire danger, which is what triggered Stage 2.”

The decision will make for some happy campers. Under Stage 2, no campfires were allowed in the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest. Under Stage 1 restrictions, fires are allowed in developed campsites and picnic areas where there is a metal fire ring.

Fires still cannot be stoked by car campers in backcountry areas outside of campgrounds or by backpackers outside of campgrounds, Boyd said.

In the rural county lands, the biggest changes with the drop to Stage 1 restrictions are people can use charcoal grills and have campfires in developed fire pits, said Valerie MacDonald, Pitkin County director of emergency management. In Stage 2, all fires are prohibited except with gas devices that can be turned off.

MacDonald said the decision to ease on restrictions was made after a weekly meeting Tuesday morning by local, regional and state fire officials and representatives of the federal agencies.

Raindrops hit Maroon Lake on Thursday, June 24, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Factors such as moisture levels in vegetation and trees are examined in the meeting. The factors that are monitored have dropped below the threshold to remain in Stage 2, MacDonald said.

After a dry end to spring and start to summer, rain began falling more consistently in the Roaring Fork Valley starting June 24. The El Jebel area received about one-third of an inch of rain Monday.

MacDonald said the federal agencies and counties try to coordinate their restrictions so that the public isn’t confused about different rules in different places. While they also want to avoid flip-flopping on restrictions, they want to be adaptive to the weather. That could mean ramping back up later in the summer.

“The long-range National Weather Service forecast is for hotter and drier weather than normal in the next three months,” MacDonald said. “We will continue to monitor the indices and, if warranted, go back to Stage 2 fire restrictions as fire danger increases.”

Remaining fire restrictions

Eagle County provided this guide to show what restrictions will remain in place when there is an easing to Stage 1 fire restrictions at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

* Campfires are only allowed within designated fire grates in developed campgrounds (i.e., a metal, in-ground containment structure — fire pans and rock campfire rings are not acceptable).

*No fires of any type, including charcoal, outside of developed areas.

*No smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area free of vegetation.

* No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets.

* No welding or operation of an acetylene or other similar torch with open flame, or any other spark producing device, except from an area that has been cleared of vegetation.

* No operation of any internal combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed and in working order.