DENVER – Much of the federal lands, and some counties, in central and northwestern Colorado will move to Stage 2 fire restrictions — which ban campfires of all sorts — on Friday just over a week after they moved to Stage 1 restrictions.
The Stage 2 restrictions will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday for Bureau of Land Management lands in Grand, Eagle, Summit, Routt, Moffat, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, as well as on BLM lands administered by the Kremmling, White River and Little Snake Field offices, the bureau said Thursday.
They come in conjunction with Stage 2 restrictions in the White River National Forest, Dinosaur National Monument and Browns Park National Wildlife refuge as several wildfires burned across the state.
Routt County commissioners also voted this week to enact Stage 2 fire restrictions, with the Muddy Slide Fire burning several thousand acres there already this week. In Grand County, Stage 2 restrictions go into effect at 6 a.m. Friday. Eagle County, including Vail, Eagle and Avon, will also move to Stage 2 restrictions just after midnight Friday.
Under Stage 2 restrictions, people cannot build campfires or have barbecues, even in developed fire rings. Smoking is only allowed inside an enclosed space without vegetation; only professional fireworks displays are allowed; people cannot operate engines or chainsaws without an approved spark arrester; recreational shooting is banned; and people need permits to operate an acetylene torch outdoors.
The Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests’ Clear Creek, Boulder and Canyon Lakes ranger districts and the Pawnee National Grassland will move to Stage 1 restrictions just after midnight Friday as well. Boulder County is putting Stage 1 restrictions in place for unincorporated areas in the western part of the county effective 12:01 a.m. Friday.
The move to Stage 2 restrictions in those places comes about a week and a half after they moved to Stage 1 restrictions and as wildfires started popping up across the state in earnest amid extreme and exceptional drought conditions and record-high temperatures in the western half of the state.
Drought conditions have remained mostly unchanged for much of June, with nearly all of eastern Colorado drought-free, but with the western half of the state quickly moving from abnormally dry, to moderate drought, to severe drought, to extreme and exceptional drought as one heads west from the Continental Divide.
Thursday’s weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update shows 18% of the state still experiencing exceptional drought conditions and 30% of the state seeing extreme drought. 46% of the state is abnormally dry or worse.
The rest of the western states — Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico — are all facing similar conditions as the Western Slope. Ninety-one percent of the West is seeing moderate drought or worse, and just 2% of the land currently has no drought classification, with another heat wave in store this weekend for the Pacific Northwest.
In Colorado, there could be some slight relief over the next couple days. No red flag warnings were in effect Thursday across the state for the first time in several days, and most of the state is expected to see some precipitation starting Thursday and into early next week, though there is also the risk that lightning could spark more wildfires and heavy rain could lead to flash flooding on the rain-starved Western Slope.