by Marissa Lorenz
On Tuesday, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin recommended that the County remain under Stage 2 fire restrictions for the time being even as neighboring counties move to Stage 1 and some communities continue without any restrictions.
Referencing a matrix utilized by the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit to determine wildland fire risk, Schroetlin stated that Grand County is currently considered at a 3-plus for fire risk.
The matrix uses seven factors in determining risk, such as adverse fire weather, low fuel moisture levels, drought indicators, number of human-caused fires, and whether or not current fires are impacting available resources. Agencies will normally start implementing fire restrictions when they meet at least four of those indicators.
Schroetlin noted that, in spite of recent moisture, a weather forecast that anticipates hotter, drier conditions in coming days and the burning fires to the west of Grand County in Routt County–the Muddy Slide Fire, at about 4,000 acres and 57% contained, and the Morgan Creek Fire, at about 4,300 acres with zero containment, both as of Wednesday–prompted agreement among Sheriff’s staff and all area fire chiefs that they should not modify the fire restriction.
“If we waffle in and out of restrictions,” Schroetlin said, “we lose the compliance, we lose the messaging.” Commissioners agreed, and so the prohibition on open fires, whether on public or private properties in unincorporated Grand County, will continue. Chainsaws must have an approved spark-arrestor. Recreational shooting, fireworks, and explosives are prohibited. And smoking is only permitted in an enclosed vehicle or building.
Propane fire pits or inserts are legal, and the Sheriff reported that recreators were making use of them. He observed that deputies had responded to several concerns about open flames only to discover that they are legal propane devices.
Bureau of Land Management and Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest lands in Grand County will continue to be in alignment with the County’s decision.
Schroetlin described the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest as “very unique,” covering lands in 17 counties in Colorado and Wyoming. For this reason, they have remained in Stage 1 restrictions, which allow for open burning within established firepits.
He stated that it had caused some “inconsistent messaging in that Red Dirt [Reservoir] area, but we’ve managed to work through that.”
Routt County remains in Stage 2 restrictions. Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle, and Jackson counties are all under Stage 1 restrictions.
Towns within Grand County determine their own levels of fire restriction. Some, such as Winter Park, have resolutions in place that mean the Town will be compliant with whichever stage the County is in. Other towns, such as Kremmling, only go into fire restrictions when voted on by the Town Council.
Kremmling has no active fire restrictions at this time.
by Marissa Lorenz