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Stage-one fire restrictions to be enacted

USFS and county to start restrictions on May 29

By Kristy Acuff

The Gunnison County commissioners voted this week to enact stage-one fire restrictions across the county beginning Tuesday May 29. Similar stage-one fire restrictions are in the works for the Gunnison National Forest as well, and will likely also be enacted on May 29.

The restrictions will apply to both county and forest service land and prohibit any fires not contained within permanently constructed containers, amateur firework displays, smoking outdoors within three feet of combustible material, and all explosive targets. Charcoal grills, hibachis or wood-burning stoves are also prohibited on federal or county land.

“Basically, our forest fuel has been drying out all spring, with the exception of the most recent rain showers,” said Patrick Medina, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “And based on what we’ve seen with the jet stream, we are going to continue to dry out.”

The stage-one fire restrictions allow campfires in permanently constructed fire pits on private land or public campgrounds and in portable devices such as chimineas, grills and tiki torches as long as the fires are supervised by a responsible adult. In addition, professionally administered fireworks displays will be allowed.

“A fire in Saguache last week scorched 15 acres very quickly,” said Dennis Spritzer, Gunnison fire marshal. “It started when a piece of burning cardboard blew out of a fire pit and onto nearby grass and sagebrush, igniting immediately.”

“That was a dynamic fire,” said county sheriff Rick Besecker. “The sagebrush was only around two feet tall but the flames were eight to ten feet tall. The response from the fire departments was phenomenal to get that contained.”

“The Gunnison Basin Wildfire Council has been meeting weekly for the past month to review conditions and we’ve got trigger points now. It’s time to go into restrictions,” said Spritzer. “The recent rains have definitely taken the edge off for Memorial Day weekend, but it’s going to be hot and dry again for a while.”

“We need multiple days of three-quarter to a half inch of soaking rain to saturate the fuel that is on the ground,” said Medina. “Hopefully the monsoons come early.”

According to Spritzer, the last time fire restrictions were enacted on public lands in the area was 2013.

The fire restrictions do not apply to property inside town limits of Gunnison, Crested Butte or Mount Crested Butte. For more information go to www.gunnisoncounty.org.

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