Fire restrictions in county lifted as region receives precipitation

County, Forest Service, BLM all on same page

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The recent weather pattern of consistent rains has resulted in the Stage 1 fire restrictions being lifted in Gunnison County and nearby public lands. The county and Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest officially lifted the restrictions on Wednesday morning while the BLM will be doing so Friday morning at 12:01 a.m.

Gunnison County sheriff John Gallowich said the Gunnison Basin Wildfire Council met Tuesday to discuss the situation and that given the improved fire conditions throughout the county, the decision was made to lift fire restrictions.

In a county press release, it was explained that the council uses federal guidelines to determine how combustible fuels on the lands are and that because the rating has been below the 90th percentile since June 21, there was a comfort level to move out of restrictions. In fact, the measurement indicates the so-called fire indices are in the 40th to 60th percentile. In other words, vegetation is not crisp but has decent moisture content.

Other criteria coming into play for the decision include: local fire protection agencies were fully sourced so personnel are around to react to potential wildfires in the region; no human fire starts have been reported of late; precipitation is predicted to continue with monsoonal moisture through the weekend; the long-term forecast predicts above normal precipitation for our region; both the BLM and Forest Service will be rescinding fire restrictions this week; and the Gunnison Basin Wildfire Council will continue to meet to monitor the situation.

“Even though we’ve lifted the Stage 1 fire restrictions we still need to be cautious and careful when using the outdoors,” said Gallowich. “We’ve been fortunate to get some recent rains, but it can turn quickly and there are other factors that could result in a fire starting, so continue to stay aware and take precautions when it comes to fire in the county.”

A Forest Service press release echoed the improving conditions. “Recent rains over much of the forest have increased fuel moisture and lessened, but not eliminated, the threat of wildland fire danger, allowing restrictions to be lifted,” the release stated. “Although fire restrictions are lifting, fire managers would like to remind visitors and users of the forest to continue to be attentive of their actions and surroundings, especially in areas with dry vegetation or dead/down trees. Practice smart wildfire prevention behavior including never leaving a campfire unattended, using established campfire rings, picking safe and proper campfire sites and ensuring that their fires are completely out and cool to the touch by using the drown, stir and feel methods.”

“We appreciate the public’s cooperation and understanding during the current Stage I restrictions that have been in place since June 17,” said forest supervisor Chad Stewart. “I would like to remind everyone that each of us has an important part in preventing wildfires. Please use good judgement while recreating and remember we all have a reason to care for our public lands. Enjoy your time on the GMUG.”

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