Saturday, August 8, 2020

Numerous lightning-started fires in area since fire ban lifted

County officials comfortable without fire ban 

By Cayla Vidmar

On Friday, July 27, the county and towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte lifted the Stage 2 fire restrictions. At this time, the northern part of the county, from west of the top of Kebler Pass and north of the top of Schofield Pass, remain under Stage 2 fire bans.

The ban lift came just before numerous fires broke out in areas surrounding Gunnison. Lightning-caused fires have continued this week, with two fire starts—one east of Gunnison, the Green Mountain Fire, and one near Blue Mesa Reservoir, coined the Russell Fire. Both fires are 100 percent contained.

The ban lift at the end of July came just days after the Buttermilk Fire began in the Gunnison Gorge Recreation Area, burning 748 acres in an unpopulated area. Shortly after the Stage 2 restrictions were lifted, two fires started up Taylor Canyon. Both were caused by lightning strikes and were contained quickly.

Two lightning-caused fires broke out last week, as the valley is still experiencing dry conditions during a disappointing monsoon season. According to a press release from the Gunnison Ranger District, on August 7, the Green Mountain Fire started near Needle Creek Reservoir and burned 53 acres in an unpopulated area.

Then, on August 11, according to Gunnison County sheriff Rick Besecker, the Russell Fire started west of Gunnison near Blue Mesa and burned 158 acres. The fire was 100 percent contained on August 13.

The lack of rain and numerous fire starts has people wondering if the county will be reinstating a fire ban in the area. According to county manager Matthew Birnie, “There has not been a recommendation from the Wildfire Council to reinstate the ban. The lack of human-caused fires is one of their rationales, along with humidity, and greater moisture in fuels.” Birnie says unfortunately, lightning doesn’t obey fire bans, so lightning-caused fires are not usually a big factor in the decision for fire bans.

Birnie says the Wildfire Council will continue to monitor the situation and will recommend fire restrictions as appropriate.


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