Monday, April 30, 2018

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions begin May 4th, 2018

MESA COUNTY, Colo - The Mesa County Sheriff, and the Fire Chiefs representing municipalities and fire protection districts of Mesa County are enacting Stage I Fire Restrictions effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 4th, 2018. This applies to all of Mesa County with the EXCEPTION of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.

In 2012 and 2013, Colorado saw the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history. The severe to extreme drought conditions Mesa County is currently experiencing are worse than the drought conditions during 2012. The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting the significant wildland fire potential for the region to be above average for the first time since 2012.

“We are going into fire restrictions very early this year due to the extreme fire danger and ongoing drought conditions. I understand the impact this will have on many people's recreation plans for the coming months and we do not make this decision without careful consideration. The conditions we are experiencing are the most dangerous fire conditions we have had in recent memory and the potential for serious wildfire is staggering,” said Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis. “We want to ensure everyone has ample opportunity to understand these fire restrictions and adjust their plans accordingly.”

Already the community has experienced two destructive urban interface fires with the 12 acre Rosevale Fire and the 220 acre Skipper Island Fire. Both fires spread rapidly with dry brush and strong winds fueling the fires. Thousands experienced power outages and some people lost their home. These fire conditions are just going to get worse throughout the summer.

“These restrictions identify human behaviors that can easily start a fire in our current conditions. We've seen fires lately that start and spread out of control very rapidly. We need people to understand that their actions can impact our entire community, and to act responsibly when it comes to fire risks,” said Grand Junction Fire Chief Ken Watkins.

While federally managed lands are not currently enacting restrictions, severe drought conditions exist. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit asks the public to be extra cautious when recreating and target shooting in dry areas. Conditions are being monitored and fire restrictions are expected to be implemented as the drought persists.

What Stage I Fire Restrictions Mean

Fireworks are NOT allowed under Stage I Fire Restrictions. Professional fireworks shows may be allowed through the permitting process.
Campfires are ONLY allowed in designated fire pits or fire rings. 
Smoking in open areas is not allowed EXCEPT within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least six feet diameter that is barren or cleared of all combustible material. 
While the restrictions do not impact most shooting sports, explosive targets are prohibited.
Stage I Fire Restrictions will end open burn season for Mesa County. The open burning of yard waste or fields is prohibited EXCEPT for agricultural burns with a Sheriff Issued Burn Permit. The Sheriff’s Fire Marshal will conduct an onsite inspection of each planned burn BEFORE a Permit is issued to ensure all safety precautions are met. If they are not met, and conditions do not allow for a safe burn, a permit will NOT be issued and any agricultural burn will be in violation of the fire restrictions in place.  
Causing or allowing a fire during fire restrictions can be a class 6 felony and can be punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to 18 months. Other possible charges include fourth degree arson and intentionally setting a wildfire. You may also be held financially responsible for damage caused.  
The use of fireworks, flares, or other incendiary devices, including exploding targets, are always prohibited on federal lands. 
Wood fires are never permitted anywhere on the Colorado National Monument.