In the interest of public health, safety and welfare, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners enacted Stage 3 fire restrictions, effective immediately. This action, which increases the level of fire restrictions in unincorporated areas of the county, was enacted as a result of the increasing fire danger and drought conditions that gave rise to the Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire conditions. The 416 Fire, which ignited on June 1 has hundreds of firefighters assigned, a Type I Incident Management Team, and is still only 15% contained. Resources are limited in the county with local fire department personnel being assigned to the 416 Fire. Fuels are extremely dry and humidity is very low. These Stage 3 measures that the public must take to help eliminate additional fire danger are vital for the safety and welfare of La Plata County.
The fire restrictions will remain in effect until such time as the threat of fire danger in La Plata County has reduced significantly, as determined by Sheriff Smith and local fire chiefs.
The La Plata County Sheriff, acting as fire marshal, and the chiefs of the Durango Fire Protection District, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, Los Pinos Fire Protection and Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District have recommended that the board enact Stage 3 fire closures and restrictions upon the land owned by La Plata County and private lands unincorporated areas of La Plata County, excluding federal and tribal lands. Stage 3 closures/restrictions are also supported by the forest supervisor of the San Juan National Forest. In addition to the provisions outlined in Stage 1 and Stage 2 , Stage 3 will add the following additional closures/restrictions/ prohibitions:
1. The closure of all La Plata County owned trails, encampments, open space, and unimproved lands.
2. Those agricultural producers exempt from fire bans pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 30-15-401(n.5)(III) and 35-28-104(11) may perform agricultural burning only with 48 hours prior notification to the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff.
3. Indoor fire places and wood-burning stoves without an approved interior and exterior chimney spark arrestor.
4. The sale, discharge or use of any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device (including 4th of July celebrations).
5. The use of floating sky lanterns, fire balloons or acetylene balloons.
6. Discharge of firearms or the use of exploding targets, unless under the circumstances described in C.R.S. § 30-15-302.
7. Blasting in development areas or construction areas.
8. The use of an explosive, blasting caps, or any other incendiary device, including the use of any model rockets.
9. Flaring for oil and gas production wells.
10. Operation of coal-fired steam engines.
Carryover restrictions from Stage 2 include:
1. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, stove fire, including but not limited to charcoal grills, coal or wood or propane burning stoves and firepits, sheepherder’s stoves, unless the specific devices uses pressurized liquid or gas, and includes a shut-off valve.
2. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, or building.
3. Welding, pipefitting, metal grinding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame unless the following requirements are met: written authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County, a twenty-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.
4. 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 with authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County.
5. 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 an effective working order meeting either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1a or Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350 (a).
6. 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.
Certain exemptions apply to these prohibitions. They include:
1. Any federal, state or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.
2. Flaring at centralized processing and compressing facilities is permitted so long as all conditions and requirements issued by applicable regulators are satisfied;
3. Emergency repair of public utilities.
4. Fires permitted by the Sheriff or local fire chiefs within their jurisdiction, if, in their professional opinions, such action is appropriate, safe and prudent.
The fire restrictions will go into effect immediately upon approval by the Board and will apply to the unincorporated areas of La Plata County, excluding those private lands in the towns of Bayfield and Ignacio, city of Durango or any federal and tribal Lands.
There are four fire districts in La Plata County. For specific information about the fire restrictions, contact your local fire department:
• Durango Fire Protection District (for properties in the Animas valley corridor from the north county line to New Mexico), call 382-6000;
• Upper Pine Fire Protection District (for properties east of Bayfield north to Vallecito), call
• Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District (for properties in west La Plata County surrounding Hesperus to the Colorado/New Mexico state line on Highway 140), call 238-0115; or
• Los Pinos Fire Protection District (for properties in the southeast corner of La Plata County and surrounding Ignacio), please call 563-9501.
For specific questions relating to the 416 Fire, there is a community hotline at (970)385-8700.
During these exceptional drought conditions, emergency notifications regarding fire and other incidents can provide citizens with critical information. Sign up for CodeRED to receive evacuation notices and other updates via cell phone or email: http://bit.ly/CodeRed_signup.