SAN LUIS VALLEY – The Rio Grande National Forest will continue with Stage 1 fire restrictions despite the Colorado statewide fire restriction order expiring. The persistent drought and lack of significant moisture have created uncommonly dry conditions for October in the foothills and mountains that surround the San Luis Valley.
“We recognize that September snow may linger in isolated pockets of the forest,” said Chad Lewis, fire management officer for the Rio Grande National Forest. “However, the increasingly dry conditions and unfavorable October forecast offer little confidence our conditions will recover enough to allow the restricted uses anytime soon.” In addition, nationally available firefighting resources are expected to remain scarce due to numerous large fires across the west.
Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit:
Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire (including fires fueled by charcoal or briquettes) outside of a permanent metal or concrete fire pit or grate that the Forest Service has installed and maintained at its developed recreation sites (campgrounds and picnic areas). 36 CFR § 261.52(a).
Smoking, except in 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. 36 CFR § 261.52(d).
Operating a chain saw without an effective and properly installed USDA or Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) approved spark arrestor, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher (with a minimum 8 oz. capacity and rating of 2A) kept with the operator, and a round point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches readily available for use. 36 CFR § 261.52(j).
Blasting, welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame without being in a cleared area of at least 10 feet in diameter and keeping a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher (with a minimum 8 oz. capacity and rating of 2A) with the operator. 36 CFR § 261.52(i).
As a reminder, the use of explosives and incendiary devices, including fireworks and targets, are prohibited on all federal lands. In addition to criminal penalties, those found responsible for starting wildfires may also face restitution costs of suppressing any fire caused by forest users.