Friday, August 7, 2020

County lifts fire restrictions in the local area

“A lower fire danger doesn’t mean no fire danger”

By Katherine Nettles

With the sustained rainfall throughout Gunnison County in recent weeks, officials have agreed to lift the Stage 1 fire restrictions that were enacted earlier this month, but they continue to emphasize fire safety and awareness that fires can happen even without high danger levels.

Effective as of noon on Tuesday, July 28, there are no longer any fire restrictions in place for Gunnison County or the public lands within it. Both the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lifted their fire restrictions on lands within the county as well, with the BLM having done so on July 24 and the GMUG adopting the same timeline as Gunnison County.

The Gunnison Basin Wildfire Council met on Tuesday morning and agreed that the arrival of southwestern monsoon season had reduced fire danger and the availability of dry, combustible forest fuels. The wildfire council then recommended to Gunnison County commissioners that the Stage 1 fire restrictions be lifted, and in a special meeting commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to repeal the fire restrictions they had enacted on July 9.

Gunnison County emergency manager Scott Morrill said the coordination between all land management entities to lift restrictions at the same time is very important. “It works so well when all the agencies can go in and out of these restrictions together—it reduces a lot of confusion for the public and demonstrates the solidarity that exists between us. I’m grateful for the relationships we have together that enable that consistent messaging.”

Morrill said the county relies heavily on the expertise of the federal agencies to assess the forests for fire danger, and takes cues from both the GMUG and the BLM recommendations.

“We are all comfortable with where we’re at in terms of fire danger. There is always fire danger, but with all the rain we are more comfortable,” said Morrill. He emphasized that all people using combustibles should take proper precautions to ensure there are no accidents.

In a press release, BLM Gunnison field manager Elijah Waters advised the same level of caution. “A lower fire danger doesn’t mean no fire danger. Conditions vary by day and by location. We urge the public to be careful with fire and use common sense.”

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