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San Juan National Forest drops fire restrictions

Forest Service says danger still present, urges caution
San Juan National Forest will drop its Stage 1 fire restrictions Thursday. (Courtesy of San Juan National Forest)

Land managers for the San Juan National Forest will drop fire restrictions Thursday after a steady monsoon decreased fire danger in the area.

Starting Thursday, campfires will be allowed outside of established campgrounds and recreation sites. The national forest asked the public to be careful with fire and obey any localized fire restrictions, such as the campfire ban for Chicago Basin in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, according to a San Juan National Forest news release Wednesday.

“We appreciate the public’s cooperation during Stage 1 restrictions and would like to remind everyone that the rain has not reached all parts of SW Colorado equally,” Kara Chadwick, forest supervisor, said in the release.

The national forest implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions in mid-June as Southwest Colorado experienced dry weather conditions and exceptional drought. When regular afternoon showers began in late June, the precipitation lessened but did not eliminate danger from fire.

This year’s monsoon has been stronger in La Plata County than in Montezuma County. However, fire danger remains high in the southern most parts of both counties.

The counties remain in extreme drought, with the southwestern part of Montezuma County in exceptional drought, the most serious of five drought categories used by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

New lightning-caused fires are being reported daily, even in higher elevations where more rain has fallen, the news release said.

“ It is also possible that the San Juan National Forest may return to restrictions if conditions dry out later in the summer and fall,” the release said.

La Plata County and Southern Ute Indian Tribe Stage 1 fire restrictions remained in effect Wednesday.

Southern Ute restrictions prohibit open burning, agricultural burning, fireworks and campfires outside of designated, developed campsites.

La Plata County’s restrictions limit smoking, welding and flaring for oil and gas production. They also prohibit open burning, fireworks, use of internal combustion engines and floating sky lanterns, all with some exceptions.

The county was in the process of evaluating its fire restrictions Wednesday, said Ted Holteen, county spokesman.

The U.S. Forest Service encouraged visitors to practice principles of outdoor fire safety, including:

  • Clear all flammable material within 3 feet of campfire rings.
  • Make a fire only if you have a shovel and sufficient water to put it out.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep fires small and manageable.
  • Extinguish fires completely. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Every campfire should be put “dead out” before leaving it.

smullane@durangoherald.com

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