Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So let me start this with a plea to all of you smokers out there: Please, please watch your butts.

I don’t mind smokers, I’m a live and let live guy. But I hate their butts. In the best of times there is nothing worse than coming across the non-biodegradable filters from a cigarette lying in the brush. But during these incredibly incendiary times, the tossing of butts goes from being a nuisance to being a weapon.

This week I saw a water truck driver puffing on a cigarette as he drove through Snowmass Canyon. Window down, after each drag he would flick the cig out of the cab and then bring it back for another hit. When done, you got it, the torch was tossed out the window onto the highway. Aside from the fact that half the state is ablaze and that Pitkin County has issued a ban on all fires, including those at the lit end of a cigarette (unless in an enclosed vehicle), WHAT WAS THIS GUY THINKING??!!!

Never have we seen fire conditions like this on the Western Slope. Begin with the lack of snow the final months of the ski season. Couple that with a dry May and virtually no rain in June until this week. Add to that the back-to-back-to-back 80-degree days with a couple of unthinkable 90s, and virtually zero percent humidity and you get a situation where a cigarette could light an inferno.

Take a walk in the tall grass and feel it crackle under your feet. The rivers are so low that they are not kicking off any moisture at all, and trees that normally provide a fresh spot to stand under are so hot and dry that they have lost their cool too. A few clouds rolled in earlier in the week but they left little in the way of rain and each lightning strike that doesn’t spark a fire feels like we missed a bullet.

So I’m issuing this plea, not just to smokers but to anyone who has a need to light a campfire or blow something up or shoot a gun in the woods or watch a private fireworks display or cut some wood with a chainsaw. Just think about it before you fire up. Do you really need to have a fire? Can you do what you need to do without a flame? If you can’t, have you taken every possible precaution?

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The high point, thus far, is that we have not been a focal point of the news media with the headline on the crawl across the screen reading “Red Mountain Fire” or “Difficult Campground Fire” or “Old Snowmass Fire.” But we will need a lot of luck to stay safe this fire season. Lightning could start a fire and that would be awful, but just imagine what a tragedy it would be if you were the one responsible for starting the “Aspen Fire.”

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

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