White River National Forest, Pitkin County increase fire bans to Stage II; no campfires of any kind
Illegal campfire fines can be up to $600 in county
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire, charcoal grill, coal, wood burning stove or sheepherders stove, including in developed camp and picnic grounds. Devices with shut-off valves using pressurized liquid or gas are exempted;
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, or building;
- Using an explosive including but not limited to fuses or blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets and tracers or incendiary ammunition;
- Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrestor, and without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and a round-point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches that is readily available for use;
- Welding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame except with a current permit, contract or letter of authorization;
- Use of a motor vehicles off National Forest System roads, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway, and except for parking overnight in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.
The White River National Forest is moving to Stage II fire restrictions effective immediately for the more than 2 million acres it covers, joining a growing number of agencies including Pitkin County to tighten the fire rules going into the Fourth of July holiday.
The Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit officials made the announcement Friday morning, and the alert stresses that all outside fires are banned, even in established campgrounds. Other restrictions include any smoking outside and it continues the ban on fireworks.
“We are urging people to use extreme caution out there and be diligent in preventing any fires on the forest during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday week,” Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor for the White River National Forest, said in the release. “Conditions are extremely dry and the weather outlook shows continued hot, dry windy conditions to come. We appreciate the public’s cooperation as we all work together to prevent human-caused wildfires.”
According to the signed order, any violations are “punishable as a class B misdemeanor, by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual … or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.”
The White River National Forest encompasses 2.3 million acres in central and western Colorado and includes the Aspen area.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo announced Friday that the county is moving to Stage II restrictions effective at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
“We use data to guide us in making these decisions, and don’t take lightly the impact the restrictions have on our community,” DiSalvo said. “However, the impacts of inaction on our part are far greater and we must do everything we can to deter and prevent fires in Pitkin County.”
A violation on county land carries a fine of $600 per event, according to Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office Operations Director Alex Burchetta, and any violations that occur on federal land (forrest service or BLM) “we will involve our federal law enforcement partners and allow them to charge per their guidelines.”
Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said the concessionaire operating the campgrounds will cover the fire grates and enforce the prohibition with the stricter rules being adopted. The Forest Service staff is mount a major education effort.
Fire restrictions on these lands will be in place until further notice, officials said, and those found responsible for starting wildfires will also face restitution costs of suppressing the fire.
Pitkin County is expected to increase its restrictions today or Saturday. Eagle County implemented Stage II bans Friday as well. Summit and Garfield counties also have implemented Stage II fire restrictions. Glenwood Springs had previously implemented Stage II restrictions.
Stricter regulations are warranted because of the low fuel-moisture levels and dry weather forecast. Several wildland fires started in Colorado on Thursday, providing additional fuel for further restrictions.
This is a developing story that will be updated.