Commissioners enact Stage 3 fire restrictions

Commissioners downgrade fire restrictions from Stage III to Stage II effective July 11
Posted on 07/11/2018

La Plata County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution downgrading from Stage III to Stage II fire restrictions for the unincorporated area of La Plata County and all lands owned by La Plata County, excluding those private lands in the towns of Bayfield and Ignacio, the city of Durango or any federal or tribal lands. The resolution is effective immediately.

The fire chiefs and the Sheriff, acting as the fire marshal, have considered the fire restriction criteria when making recommendations as to whether the fire restrictions should be downgraded from Stage III.  These criteria include:

1. Measured thousand-hour fuel moisture content is 12% or less.

2. Seasonal energy release component is above the 80th percentile.

3. Three-day mean burning index is above the 80th percentile.

4. Ignition component is 80 percent or above.

5. Fire danger rating adjective class is VERY HIGH or EXTREME.

6. Fire occurrence is impacting available suppression resources making adequate initial attack difficult.

7. Local area preparedness level is 3 or above.

8. Local area is receiving a high occurrence of fires and human-caused risk is expected to increase.

9. Adverse fire weather conditions and risks are predicted to continue.

10. Implementation of existing fire restrictions is not adequately reducing human-caused fires.

The guidelines for downgrading from Stage III to Stage II requires a reduction to six or fewer of the above conditions that will apply for a period of seven days with a predicted trend toward continued improvement.   The guideline for reducing from a Stage II to Stage I is a reduction to four or fewer of the above conditions.  The only one of the 10 criteria that remains in place is measured thousand hour fuel moisture content, which is currently at 9%.

Stage II fire restrictions prohibit the following activities: 

  1. Open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning except by agricultural producers as provided for in C.R.S. §30-15-401(n.5)(III) and defined in C.R.S. §35-28-104(11); provided that such agricultural burning is permitted only with 24 hours prior notification to the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County; and 
  2. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, stove fire, including but not limited to charcoal grills, coal or wood burning stoves, or sheepherder’s stoves, unless the specific device uses pressurized liquid or gas, and includes a shut-off valve; and
  3. Smoking, unless within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, or building; and
  4. Welding, pipefitting, metal grinding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame unless the following requirements are met:a 20-foot radius safe zone free of vegetation and all flammable materials, and in addition to the equipment operator, a fire watch individual equipped with one (1) 2 ½ gallon pressurized fire extinguisher or a 5lb. ABC extinguisher or a pressurized water supply and proper hand tools must be readily available and on-site to watch for fires; and
  5. Oil and gas welding and cutting operations, which are required to comply with the requirements of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Production, Rule 606A(o), may only be conducted within a 20-foot radius safe zone that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials; and
  6. Operating or using any internal combustion engine, including but not limited to chainsaws, generators and all-terrain vehicles, unless equipped with a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order meeting either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1 or Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350 (a); and
  7. Operating a chainsaw, unless a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than 8 ounces capacity by weight is in the operator’s immediate vicinity, and one size 0 or larger round, pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches is with fueling supplies and is readily available; and
  8. Using an explosive, including but not limited to fireworks, blasting caps, or any other incendiary device. Blasting in development areas or construction areas with continuous fire watch will be permitted with written authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County, whomever has jurisdiction; and
  9. Flaring for oil and gas production wells and production facilities may be allowed with the approval from the designated fire chief (or his designee) for that district, or in the event no fire district exists for the location of the proposed flaring, the La Plata County Director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM Director).Any flaring from established gas processing plants or facilities is exempted. 

Under these and all fire restrictions, the fire chiefs in La Plata County, as well as the La Plata County Sheriff have authority to make exceptions to prohibitions if they deem such actions to be safe, appropriate and prudent in their professional opinions. 

Prohibitions from Stage III that are no longer in effect include: 

  • The closure of county-owned trails, encampments, open space and unimproved lands.
  • Indoor fire places and wood-burning stoves without an approved interior and exterior chimney spark arrestor.
  • Written authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County to conduct welding, pipefitting, metal grinding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame operations (specific fire mitigation requirements are still in effect-please see above).
  • Specific authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County for oil and gas welding operations to conduct oil and gas welding and cutting operations (other fire mitigation requirements are still in effect).
  • The use of floating sky lanterns, fire balloons or acetylene balloons.
  • Discharging of firearms or the use of exploding targets, unless under the circumstances described in C.R.S. § 30-15-302.
  • Flaring for oil and gas production wells.
  • Operating coal-fired steam engines.

The Board of County Commissioners will consider downgrading to Stage I fire restrictions at a special business meeting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 18, in the County Administration Board Room, 1101 E. 2nd Ave., Durango.
Resolution 2018-26