Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin and Fire Management Officer Paul Mintier appeared before the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday with a proposed ban, similar to that used in previous years.
Mintier presented a matrix used by the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit for determining wildland fire risk. Seven factors used in decision-making were listed, with Grand County having already met three of those risk factors and approaching another one or two.
Mintier explained that Grand County 1,000-hour fuel moisture levels are low–9% or less below 8,000 feet or 12% or less above 8,000 feet; the three-day mean energy release component is at 90% or above; and adverse fire weather is predicted to continue. Fuel moisture levels are dropping in sagebrush, and additional drought indicators may be moving into Northern Colorado. He noted that sporadic afternoon rain showers do little to reduce fire risk.
The report also noted that there has not been a higher-than-normal number of human-caused fires and that current fires are not impacting available resources.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the ban, making it effective as of Wednesday at noon. “I do appreciate using the scientific matrix,” commented Commissioner Merrit Linke, “I think it’s worked well for us in the past.”
Stage I restrictions prohibit open fires on public lands outside of designated fire pits; outdoor smoking, except in designated areas; operation of chain saws without proper spark-arresting devices; and outdoor welding or other torch use, except in areas with no nearby combustible materials.
Gas stoves and grills, approved wood pellet devices, and open fires in developed recreation areas with permanently constructed fire pits or grills are permitted. Open fires are allowed on private property within outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, chimineas, and/or grills. Permitted professional fireworks displays may still occur.
Similar Stage I restrictions have already been implemented in neighboring Summit, Eagle, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties, as well as most counties on the West Slope and in Southern Colorado.