At 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, June 21, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) will hold a public hearing for the purpose of receiving input on a proposed Ordinance 2022-02 that would restrict open fires and open burning in the unincorporated areas of Chaffee County, and establishing penalties for violating such an ordinance. As the drought in Central Colorado deepens and the ordinance would seem to be needed, it also appears to ignore the safety issues related to the operation of short-term rental businesses in rural private properties during Stage I Fire Restrictions.
The proposed ordinance acknowledges the role the BoCC plays in preserving public health and safety, the danger of forest and prairie fires throughout Chaffee County, and the need to coordinate public safety in light of fire weather conditions (lack of moisture and historic and long-term drought conditions) and fire danger ratings.
As written, the “Chaffee County Open Fire and Open Burning Restriction” Ordinance defines the county’s meaning of the following:
- Open fires
- Fire restrictions
- No-burn days
- Stage I restrictions
- Stage II restrictions
- Open fire regulation
It establishes enforcement by the County Sheriff’s Office and lays out unlawful activities. It establishes civil penalties and fines for each separate violation of not more than $1,000 per infraction, plus a $10 surcharge. If the violator wishes to plead guilty then the fines would be $300 for a Stage I restriction violation and $700 during Stage II restrictions (both with the $10 surcharges).
There appear to be gaps in the ordinance that leave safety risks, specifically related to the operation of short-term rentals in unincorporated areas, particularly in the dangerous urban-wildland interface. In Stage I fire restrictions, commercial and private property is specifically exempt. Short-term rentals in private properties where no full-time resident is present represent a danger to the neighborhoods in which they are located. Unlike motels and hotels and B&B’s, or short-term rental rooms in private residences, there is no resident responsible party to enforce safe precautions or rules regarding fire rings, size of fires or proper fire extinguishing. This has led to some documented dangerous fire situations in the county.
See https://chaffeecoco.civicclerk.com/web/home.aspx for the agenda packet (containing the ordinance draft) for the June 21 meeting, with the link to the proposed ordinance. Those who may wish to submit written comment regarding the proposed ordinance can do so until 12:00 noon Friday, by contacting county Administrative Assistant Brandy Coscarella via Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The June 21 BoCC meeting will be held at the Buena Vista Community Center. County Board meetings are available via ZOOM. For Board of County Commissioner Meetings, you may join meetings at Join Meeting (ID# 109 079 543).