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Over the past several days the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office has issued no-burn orders for unincorporated Chaffee County and in doing so it has created some confusion as to whether there are long-term fire restrictions in place. “The simple answer is NO,” says Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze.

“Due to the continuing windy conditions we from time to time issue no-burn orders but these are not to be confused with Long Term Fire Restrictions,” he adds. “‘No Burn Days’ are much like Red Flag Warnings issued by the National Weather Service and most times we mirror them.”

Ditch maintenance is critically important to keep irrigation ditches functional. Photo courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy.

No burn days are enacted on a day-to-day basis due to the forecast of gusty winds. The Chaffee County Communications Center grants permission on a daily basis for ranchers and others who are needing to burn large slash/refuse piles or irrigation ditches. Those wanting to burn call the Communications Center in the morning and request a permit to do so. This is allowed if weather permits such.

In doing so landowners must have their fire fully extinguished by 2:00 p.m. on that same day.

“We normally only grant permission for three burns on the south end of the county and three for the north end of the county,” Spezze explains.

It is important for everyone to remember that during this time of year our ranchers and farmers must have the opportunity to burn their ditches. Irrigation water is their lifeline and burning their ditches on a yearly basis allows the free flow of water that is so vital to them. It is also extremely important for our non-ranching/farming community to remember that by allowing those who irrigate to do so effectively, it lowers the overall fire danger to our entire community as it creates better green-up and spreads moisture to many places that might not normally get saturated, thus decreasing our overall fire danger.

Spezze’s office explains that:

  • Long Term Fire Restrictions are issued when numerous different criteria are met, and they then begin either Stage I or Stage II Fire Restrictions. When they enter Long Term Fire Restrictions, they do this only after the criteria are met and there is an agreement between the county sheriff, local fire chiefs and the Forest Service (USFS).
  • “If we are in fire restrictions, we notify the community by posting on our Fire Restriction link on our web and Facebook page and by notifying the local media. We do not post daily ‘No Burn Days’ on our fire restriction link because this causes much confusion. We post ‘No Burn Days’ on our Facebook and web pages and the local radio picks this up from there.”

The Sheriff’s Office says there is also confusion as to whom is affected by, and the type of no burn/fire restriction issued by the county sheriff.

Those affected by orders issued by the sheriff are only persons living in the unincorporated Chaffee County areas. 

These orders do not impact those living in incorporated cities, Salida, Buena Vista, and Poncha Springs. Nor do these orders/restrictions affect federal lands, USFS, and BLM. If people are camping on Forest Service or BLM lands, they are NOT impacted by orders issued by the sheriff.

“The one thing that everyone should take away from this is all this could be avoided if we use common sense,” says Spezze. “We live in a semi-arid climate to begin with and therefore we are semi-dry. Before any type of fire is started, please consider a few factors: wind/weather, your surroundings, the availability of resources to extinguish your fire and so on.”