White River forest bans campfires | AspenTimes.com

White River forest bans campfires

The U.S. Forest Service is so concerned about new fires breaking out and taxing already depleted resources that it has banned all fires in the White River National Forest.

The order takes effect at 8 a.m. today, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Sue Froeschle. White River officials don’t want to risk sparking another fire when officials are already battling eight blazes across the state, she said.

One of those fires is the nearly 11,000-acre Coal Seam fire outside of Glenwood Springs.

The order bans the “building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal broiler or a coal or wood stove.”

Although Gov. Bill Owens banned open fires in the state recently, the Forest Service continued to allow fires in approved grates or fire pits in its campgrounds. Fires in the backcountry, outside of campgrounds, were banned back in early May, Froeschle said.

The fire restrictions have some teeth to them. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization, imprisonment of up to six months, or both, according to the order.

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The expanded restrictions won’t leave campers without a way to cook food or light their sites. The use of “petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices” are exempt from the latest ban, according to the Forest Service order. But devices used “must meet the fire underwriters specifications for safety,” the order said.

Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle said Tuesday that she would give the public an opportunity to show it would honor the fire ban. If violations occur, the Forest Service will be forced to consider closing the 2.3 million-acre national forest or parts of it, she said.

In addition to banning campfires, the order restricts several other activities, including:

Smoking, except when in an enclosed vehicle or building, at a developed recreation site or “while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.”

Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame.

Using explosives and possession, discharging or using any kind of fireworks or pyrotechnic device.

Operating a chain saw with an internal-combustion engine without a fire extinguisher and shovel of specified types.

Operating or using any internal-combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order.

Copies of the regulations or explanations are available at the district ranger offices in Carbondale and Aspen.

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