by Tara Walker
Fire restrictions are not in place in Grand County despite drought concerns and fires in Southern Colorado. The Grand County Sheriff’s office has set up an information hotline to keep the public informed as to current fire restrictions in Grand County and can be reached by calling 970-725-3852.
The US Drought Monitor released on Thursday June 14 indicate that portions of Colorado is currently categorized as abnormally dry or in moderate drought in the short term current conditions, but the Palmer Drought Index which shows long term meteorological conditions categorize our area of Colorado as severe to extreme drought conditions. The data seems to indicate that while currently conditions are fairly good, long term conditions point to drought.
The Palmer Drought Index is based on a supply and demand model of soil moisture and while it is effective in determining long term drought over several months, it is not as good for current conditions over several weeks. Recent rain in Grand County and northern Colorado has improved current fire conditions. During the May State of the River update, Granby Reservoir was projected to fill, but not spill this year. Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer to the BOCC on 6/12, “Granby Reservoir is at 96% and this is not a water shortage year.”
Last week, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin sent a statement to the Board of County Commissioners explaining the Sheriff’s office continues to monitor the fire risk conditions within the county and despite the other fires in the state, Grand County fire conditions remain relatively low. However, due to the number of fires throughout the state, a number of resources are being depleted to fight the other fires.
During the June 19 BOCC meeting, Sheriff Schroetlin reiterated that despite public concern, fire restrictions are not in place this week, “There was a conference call amongst federal and state partners in the northwest this week and the consensus was to stay out of fire restrictions due to rain and recent conditions, the fire level has gone down. Several adjacent counties are staying out of restrictions.”
Schroetlin went on to explain that Jackson County is going on fire restrictions due to lack of resources. In an effort to campaign to citizens and to help people understand how these decisions are made, the Sheriff’s department has created an information hotline. Citizens that call 970-725-3852 will get a message with any critical information the sheriff’s office is passing on to the public. Throughout the summer, the hotline will be updated weekly with any information related to fire restrictions and could be updated more frequently should conditions change.
As of June 20, this is the message citizens will hear when calling the hotline, “Hi this is Sheriff Brett Schroetlin. Thank you for contacting the Grand County Sheriff’s Office information hotline. Today is June 19, 2018. Currently, Grand County does not have any fire restrictions in place and there are no immediate plans to place restrictions this upcoming week. Consistently throughout the fire season, the Sheriff’s office, your local fire districts and state and federal partners consistently review fire conditions throughout Grand County and the region to determine if and when fire restrictions should be put in place.
The criteria used for the decision is based on a 7 point matrix that is based on scientific fire behavior and fire conditions. Currently out of 7 criteria, Grand County meets two criteria and we begin discussing fire restrictions when we meet 3 of 7 criteria. Fire restrictions most likely go in place when we meet 4 out of 7 of these criteria. Should you have any questions in regards to what Grand County is doing to keep our community safe and potential fire and community restrictions, please contact Sheriff Brett Schroetlin at 970-725-3841 and leave a message and I will return your call at my earliest convenience.”
Sheriff Schroetlin hopes the hotline will help keep all citizens apprised of any information relating to fire conditions or emergency situations that arise. Some citizens don’t have internet access so the hotline is another way to reach out to the community. Schroetlin, “Unless we have human-caused fires or we pull resources out of our region to go somewhere else, we don’t see a change forthcoming. We will update the phone line every Tuesday after conference calls or more regularly if conditions change.”