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Make it a fire-free, safe Fourth of July

Despite a few brief days of cooler temperatures, it’s been hot. Some days recently, depending on where you were in the Four Corners, the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees.

It’s also dry. Really dry. And hazy. Smoke has been traveling into our area off and on from fires burning as far away as California, southern Arizona and southeast Utah.

We all know what this means. We have to do our part. Ninety percent of all fires are human-caused.

Montezuma County Board of Commissioners has issued a ban on open fires, controlled burns and the use of fireworks. The ban is supported by all area fire chiefs. It took effect June 16.

Also on June 16, La Plata County and the San Juan National Forest instituted Stage 1 restrictions that ban fires, including the use of charcoals or briquettes outside metal or concrete fire pits or grates in developed campgrounds and picnic areas.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has also instituted Stage 1 fire restrictions.

Some authorities will likely be announcing higher-level restrictions soon, as exceptional drought conditions threaten to make 2021 a very dangerous year.

This is a good time to think back to your Girl Scout or Boy Scout training, if you were lucky enough to have that experience, and to tell your small children about Smokey Bear.

Never, at any time of year, anywhere, should cigarettes or other smoking materials be tossed away. They should be thoroughly extinguished and disposed of in a proper, fireproof container.

If anything you do involves fire or the potential for fire – welding and outdoor cooking come to mind – you should have a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher at the ready to put out any floating sparks.

Any fire should be thoroughly extinguished, checked and double-checked. Many of us have had the frightening experience of realizing a campfire we thought we’d put out last night still had live embers in it the next morning. Officials believe it was an unextinguished campfire that caused the Pack Creek Fire still burning southeast of Moab.

Personal fireworks are currently banned and shouldn’t be used during a time like this; it’s too risky. We will all live to set off our own fireworks in the future. Instead, consider attending the fabulous Fourth of July events sponsored by the City of Cortez and let the professionals manage the fireworks, Cortez Fire Protection Chief Jay Balfour told the Journal in a recent news story.

“We hope that our citizens and those from the surrounding communities choose to spend their July 4 in our great parks system enjoying the show. Hopefully this amazing display along with the current fire restrictions will help people make the safe decision to not set off their personal fireworks. It is a very dry year, and we are lucky to have a place like Parque de Vida that we can produce a show for everyone,” Balfour said.

We support the imposition of fines for anyone violating the fire restrictions, anytime, anywhere. City and county authorities must take responsibility for making sure visitors are warned about fire restrictions and the severe danger because of drought.

And as always, we salute those who have made their careers in the work of firefighting and fire prevention and mitigation, whether they are regular employees of our local fire departments, federal seasonal wildlands firefighters, or other fire and law enforcement officers who help warn us and keep us safe from fire. It’s hard, hot, dangerous work that can threaten the lives of those who do it and harm their health for the long term. We’re grateful for those who are willing to take those risks and make those sacrifices.

Summer is upon us. Let’s make it a safe one.