Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stage II Burn Restrictions for La Plata County

Go to  for copies of the original release and Board Resolution

Text from the Press Release:                                                                

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

For additional information, please                                                                                           June 20, 2012
contact: Butch Knowlton at xxx-xxx-xxxx                                                                                  11:55 a.m.
La Plata County Commissioners Enact Stage II Fire Restrictions

Durango, COLa Plata County continues to experience above-average temperatures, dry winds, low humidity, and no rain.  As a result of these conditions, La Plata County now has extremely dry conditions that can provide explosive fire growth and behavior.  Developing drought conditions and larger wildland fires in the Southwest and other regions of the U.S. have lead to equipment and personnel shortfalls which limit response abilities from federal and regional response teams.  The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners today enacted Stage II fire restrictions effective immediately on open burning in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County and upon all lands owned by La Plata County excluding those private lands in the Towns of Bayfield and Ignacio, the City of Durango, or any State, Federal or Tribal lands. 

“All standing and ground fuels have continued to dry and are now brown in many areas of the County which increases the potential for the ignition of a wildfire,” explained Butch Knowlton, Emergency Management Director.  “Extreme drought conditions and larger wildland fires have lead to equipment and personnel shortfalls which limit our response abilities to new wildland fires.  It’s so important for everyone to be responsible and adhere to these restrictions, because one spark could lead to disaster.”  Mr. Knowlton strongly cautions against the use of fireworks, saying “The greatest concern I have for a wildfire is the use of fireworks.” 

Stage II fire restrictions build on the Stage I restrictions and prohibits the following activities:

•         Open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning within all private land in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County and within all land owned by La Plata County.

•         Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal fueled broiler, or open fire of any type, except that mechanical stoves and appliances fueled by bottled or liquid gas (such as gas grills), which allow the operator to control and extinguish the flame with a valve are permitted.

•         Smoking in any open area where dry grasses or other combustible material may be present, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.

•         Using explosive materials (i.e. fireworks, blasting caps or incendiary devices that may result in the ignition of flammable materials), except that public fireworks displays celebrating July 4, 2012 under the control of local fire departments or licensed fireworks professionals approved by the local authority having jurisdiction will be permitted, and blasting in development areas or construction areas with a continuous fire watch will be permitted with written authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County, whomever has jurisdiction.

•         Welding or operating an acetylene or similar torch with open flame, except that welding and cutting will be permitted with the following requirements: (1) a 40-foot diameter safe zone free of vegetation, (2) a 2-1/2 gallon pressurized fire extinguisher or a 5lb ABC extinguisher or a pressurized water supply and proper hand tools must be on site, and (3) a fire watch individual must be standing by continuously.  Further, 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), shall be permitted and must be conducted with a 40-foot diameter safe zone.

•         Operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order meeting either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1a or Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350(a).

•         Operating a chainsaw without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than 8 ounces capacity by weight, and one size 0 or larger round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.  The extinguisher shall be with the chainsaw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies but readily available.

•         Flaring for oil and gas production wells and production facilities, except that flaring may be allowed in the following circumstances: (1) any flaring from established refineries is permitted, or (2) flaring is permitted 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).  In advance of any flaring, operators shall notify the La Plata County Emergency Communications Center at 970-385-2900 and the Ignacio Dispatch at 970-563-4401 or (970) 563-4402.  Further, prior to the installation of a drilling rig, operators are required to file a “Production Well Emergency Response Information Form” (posted to the La Plata County Website) with the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management informing the OEM Director of the location, duration (state date/end date/work hours) and work information of active work sites (pipelines, workovers, drilling, and completion).

For specific information about the fire restrictions, individuals should contact their local fire department.   A violation of the fire restrictions shall constitute a class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each violation. 

The fire restrictions were enacted by the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners upon the recommendation of Sheriff Duke Schirard and the Chiefs of the local fire districts.  The restrictions do provide flexibility to the local fire chiefs to ease restrictions within their respective jurisdictions, if they deem such actions to be safe, appropriate and prudent in their professional opinions.  There are four fire districts within La Plata County serving specific areas of the County.  To request a special exception permit to burn, please contact a fire department listed below based on the location of the property:

  • Durango Fire and Rescue Authority (for properties in the Animas valley corridor from the north county line to New Mexico), visit to fill out the online permit, or call 382-6023.
  • Upper Pine Fire Protection District (for properties east of Bayfield north to Vallecito), please call 884-9508;
  • 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), please 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.

The La Plata County fire response agencies will continue to monitor the situation and if the conditions continue to deteriorate, a more restrictive fire ban may be developed.  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 the Sheriff, local fire chiefs and/or County Director of Emergency Management.

(Note: A copy of the Board’s resolution is attached.)


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