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Commissioners encourage ongoing vigilance in advance of late-summer fire season
Contacts:Dan Gibbs, County Commissioner: 970-333-9817SUMMIT COUNTY – The Board of County Commissioners have opted to keep Summit County in Stage 1 fire restrictions, in recognition of the upcoming late-summer fire season, which typically begins in early September."We have seen some rain and cooler temperatures in recent weeks, but our second fire season is right around the corner, and it wouldn't be unusual for us to dry out again," Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. "We don't feel it's practical or safe to jump in and out of fire restrictions at a moment's notice as conditions change from week to week."Remaining in Stage 1 fire restrictions maintains consistency with other jurisdictions in Summit County, including U.S. Forest Service lands. The Dillon Ranger District and the towns of Breckenridge, Blue River, Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco all have Stage 1 restrictions in place. All other ranger districts in the White River National Forest are in Stage 2 restrictions, and multiple fire-related emergency closures are in place."The vast majority of wildfires are caused by humans, so public education about fire restrictions is a key pillar of our wildfire prevention efforts," Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. "In a community with such a large number of visitors, it's just not realistic to expect that people will understand and abide by a patchwork of different fire-restriction levels across half a dozen jurisdictions in one county, especially as we head toward a big holiday weekend."The Board of County Commissioners also cited concerns about the pressure on firefighting resources across the West, given the extraordinary level of fire activity. According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are approximately 105 wildfires currently burning on 1.8 million acres of private, state, tribal and federal land."During the Buffalo and Peak Two fires, we were very fortunate to have federal air resources and ground crews come to our aid right away," Gibbs said. "But if you take a look at the fire map on Inciweb right now, it's not a pretty picture. There are about 25,000 interagency fire personnel currently deployed on fires in 10 states."Fire districts, county officials and U.S. Forest Service personnel will continue to monitor conditions throughout the late summer and fall to determine when it is appropriate to lift fire restrictions."We can't afford to take our eye off the ball this time of year. As we've seen in the past, some rainy weather in August does not mean wildfire season is over," Gibbs said.Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using an open fire. An open fire is defined as any outdoor fire, including but not limited to campfires, warming fires, bonfires or prescribed burns of any material. Smoking is prohibited, except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.Fires are allowed in constructed, permanent fire pits or fire grates within developed recreation sites, such as campgrounds and picnic areas. Also allowed are portable stoves and lanterns that use gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, and fully enclosed sheepherder stoves with one-quarter-inch spark arrester screens.Under Stage 1 restrictions, chainsaw operators must use a properly functioning USDA or SAE approved spark arrester and have a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and round-point shovel readily available for use. Any outdoor welding or operation of an acetylene or other torch with an open flame is prohibited, except in a cleared area with a diameter of at least 10 feet; a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher must be readily available for use.Stage 1 fire restrictions allow for the use of charcoal grills, gas grills and chimeneas on private property. Charcoal grills and barbecues are not allowed on U.S. Forest Service land, including campgrounds and picnic areas.Professional fireworks displays are allowed, if approved in advance by the County.