With severe drought conditions continuing to prevail in the San Juans, Stage One fire restrictions took effect across southwest Colorado on Wednesday, June 19.
But the restrictions so far only apply to land below 8,500 feet in elevation, thus no fire restrictions are actually yet in place for San Juan County.
And while Silverton-San Juan Fire Department Chief Gilbert Archuleta urged the public to exercise caution with campfires, he expressed optimism that Silverton’s Fourth of July fireworks show will be able to go ahead as planned, despite the fire danger.
Silverton’s Fourth of July fireworks display draws huge crowds.
But last year the Silverton Town Council voted to cancel the fireworks on June 25 amid extreme fire danger. But the monsoon rains started on July 1.
That left some feeling that the fireworks could have proceeded safely after all.
“Everybody called it too early last year,” Archuleta said. “Then we got the rains.”
Archuleta said the plan this year is to hold off until the last minute before any decision to cancel the fireworks is finalized.
But he expects the show will go on. He said his department has not had any wildfires reported in its jurisdiction yet this season. And he noted the railroad has hired a helicopter to watch for fires along the route.
“The railroad is doing a great job of trying to mitigate the fire danger,” Archuleta said.
Archuleta said the fire department plans to wet down the shrine hill prior to the July 4 fireworks show.
“We all need to be cautious,” Archuleta said. “We’ll see what happens, then we’ll make the call. The fire department won’t be taking any chances.”
The Stage One fire restrictions on public land elsewhere in southwest Colorado prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except a fire within a permanent constructed fire grate in a developed campground.
Also, smoking is prohibited on public land except within 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 materials.
The use of fireworks, flares or other incendiary devices is always prohibited on federal lands. Additionally, operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order is always prohibited.
Federal agencies use a three-stage process to limit activities that could cause wildfires during drought conditions. Stage One restricts the activities as indicated above. Stage Two includes all stage one restrictions, plus prohibits welding; the use of chainsaws; and building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire or stove fire. Stage Three prohibits all burning.