Fire Restrictions Roll Out Across Colorado With Peak Wildfire Season Around The Corner

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A wildfire danger sign on Highway 14 between Fort Collins and Walden in the Poudre Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Several Colorado counties have announced fire bans as the state enters wildfire season. 

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions prohibit some combustive activities, like starting an open fire, smoking, or setting off fireworks. Fire bans have been enacted in areas such as Summit County, Eagle County, La Plata County, Pitkin County, and San Juan National Forest.

Colorado is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave, with high temperatures fueling critical fire danger. The risk is worsened by the extreme drought affecting the Western part of the state.  

Some counties may not keep Stage 1 restrictions in place for very long. Summit County officials said they’re not far from meeting the requirements for tighter Stage 2 restrictions. That would expand the bans to include things like home grilling and campground fire pits.

“We are steadily moving towards Stage 2 thresholds,” said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons in a statement. “The fuel moisture levels and weather patterns we are seeing are unprecedented. We are monitoring them and will remain in daily communication with our local, state, and federal partners to decide when it would be appropriate to move to Stage 2.”

Colorado has already seen some small wildfires ignite this month, after the National Weather Service issued a rare “extremely critical” fire weather warning. Fire officials say 2021 will likely be another intense year of wildfires, due to a combination of prolonged drought and snowpack melting earlier than usual. 

Last year’s fire season set multiple records. The Cameron Peak fire west of Fort Collins burned for 112 days before being fully contained. It became the largest wildfire in state history after burning 208,913 acres. That title used to belong to the Pine Gulch fire, which burned over 139,000 acres near Grand Junction earlier that summer.