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Gilpin County goes to Stage 1 fire restrictions

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Timberline reports one wild land fire, quickly contained

By Lynn Volkens

Gilpin County Sheriff Bruce Hartman issued directions to put the entire county on Stage 1 fire restrictions as of 1 p.m. June 12, 2013. This is not a complete fire “ban,” but does prohibit some activities and sets specific requirements for others. Sheriff Hartman and Colorado Forester Allen Owen monitor Gilpin’s fire risk from a point in Pickle Gulch, using six different factors that contribute to wild land fire. When those factors, such as fuel moisture content meet or exceed the set danger levels, fire restrictions are imposed. Current restrictions prohibit campfires, even when contained within a ring of stones. Smoking, except in very limited locations, is also prohibited. Other restrictions and allowances of Stage 1 restrictions are listed below.

PROHIBITED:

–No building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire or stove fire (defined as a campfire built inside an enclosed stove or grill, portable brazier, or a pressurized liquid or gas stove, including a space-heating device), without a permit EXCEPT in a developed camp or picnic ground. The following actions are permitted: petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices providing such devices meet the fire underwriters’ specifications for safety.

–No smoking unless in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren of cleared of all flammable material.

–No operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order.

ALLOWED:

–Persons with a permit specifically authorizing the prohibited act or omission.

–Resident owners and leasers of land within the restricted area are exempt from above restrictions provided such fires are within the residence.

–Any Federal, State or Local Officer or member of an organized firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.

Timberline Fire Protection District’s incident summary report, for May and June (as of June 16th), shows eight calls related to wild land fire. Three of the calls were reports of sighting or smelling smoke, but no fire was found. Two more smoke sighting reports turned out to be something other than smoke (steam, fog, dust, pollen, etc.). On one call, firefighters found an unattended campfire and extinguished it – the residents were not home. Another fire, with the potential of spreading to the forest, was caused by an unattended electric BBQ smoker which had caused a grease fire and burned a portion of the deck.

A call that came in on Saturday, June 8th, was the real deal. The cause of that fire, which Timberline Chief Chris Jennings said had spread to about a quarter of an acre when firefighters arrived, was believed to have been re-ignition of embers or ash from a campfire that residents of Lazy Z Road had thought was out. The report shows a call of “large fire in neighbor’s yard” received at dispatch at 6:48 p.m., then updated to “spreading to forest” as firefighters were en route. Jennings said some of the firefighters were returning from an accident call at the time and arrived within minutes of the fire being reported. According to the incident report, by 6:59 p.m., Chief Jennings and eleven firefighters were on the scene with engines from Timberline Stations 4, 1 and 3; brush trucks from Stations 1 and 2; the Station 2 tender; and the Station 6 rescue truck. Jennings said firefighters had to force the Timberwolf engine, one of Timberline’s newest vehicles, along a very narrow trail to access the fire. Firefighters used the engine’s compressed air foam system to quickly smother the fire. The Chief and firefighters remained at the scene until 9:30 p.m., investigating and mopping up.

Authorities stress that residents should be extremely careful of any (allowable) fire activity. Support resources from outside Gilpin are already stretched thin with the Black Forest, Royal Gorge, Big Meadows and other wild land fires currently burning in Colorado. Vigilance is the order of the day; sightings of smoke should be called in immediately. With fire restrictions in effect, the source of that smoke shouldn’t be someone’s recreational campfire and may not be the neighbor’s grill. Of utmost importance is that driveways are wide enough for the large Timberwolf (fire engines) and Tenderwolf (tankers) to access so that firefighters can get the job done quickly and safely. Noting that the trucks are 8.5 feet wide and up to 33 feet long, Jennings said driveways should be at least 12 feet wide with overhead clearance of 14 feet, and space to turn around near the driveway culmination point.

Emergency Preparedness information is available by going to the County website, www.co.gilpin.co.us, including information about evacuation notice procedures, the Gilpin County Animal Response Team and more. Fire mitigation measures, strongly encouraged, are not to just cut trees, but to remove the slash, rather than leaving it on the property. Burning slash is allowed only when there is snow on the ground, and only after Timberline has issued a permit. The County’s Public Works department will take logs for the biomass burner and the County’s slash collection site, free for Gilpin County residents, is open Wednesdays –Saturdays, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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