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Fire danger is high, the County is at Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, and misinformation is out there.

Residents of Chaffee County, as well as tourists – who are beginning to return to the County ahead of the County’s announced June 1 reopening date – must know this; with no measurable precipitation in weeks, the fire danger is high and rising. The County has been in Stage 2 Fire Restriction since April 8 – meaning that no open fires of any kind, no matter how large or small, are allowed.

“I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that unincorporated Chaffee County is still under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions,” said Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze. “Due to the lack of any considerable moisture over the past several days combined with the continuing high winds, our fire conditions are high.”

“Stage 2 Fire Restrictions (“Chaffee County Open Fire and Open Burning Restriction Ordinance”) prohibit any open burning of any kind,” said Spezze in his press announcement.” Please refer to the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office web page as well as our Facebook page for a full outline of Stage 2 restrictions contained in the county ordinance, which is posted at both locations. Refer to the links provided on those pages for fire restrictions in place on lands managed by both the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

There is an urgency to this message being disseminated widely, due to an error made in a special wildfire prevention section that ran Thursday in The Mountain Mail and the Chaffee County Times which transposed Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire restrictions.

Chaffee County Attorney Jennie Davis raised the error during a Chaffee County Commissioners special meeting on Friday morning, May 8, saying in the public session, “It’s this chart on page 5 on wildfire preparedness, and they are just wrong – it’s terrible. If I was looking at this and hadn’t actually written the county fire ordinance I would think I could have an open fire, or that lighting a fire or smoking a cigarette outside by grasses or trees right now was just fine. It’s not.”

Understandably, this County, which is barely eight months past the experience of the Decker Fire, is on edge over wildfire danger. Just last week, the sheriff announced that due to rapidly-increasing fire danger, the County would now prohibit burning along agricultural ditches. Already this past month, the County has experienced at least three brush fires, which due to rapid response from emergency agencies, were contained.

The ordinance is clear: “For purposes of this Ordinance, open fires shall be defined as any outdoor fire or burn, including, but not limited to, campfires, warming fires, charcoal fires, any type of charcoal-fueled broilers or bar-b-que grills, fires in wood-burning stoves, and the prescribed burning of fence lines or rows, ditches, fields, farmlands, rangelands, wildlands, slash piles, trash, and debris.” This includes “Campfire and warming fires are fires within a ring or fire grate, no greater than three feet in diameter. Small open fires are open fires smaller than ten feet in diameter and no more than three feet in height, while large open fires are ten feet or more in diameters or three feet high or both.” All are prohibited.

The ordinance has financial penalties for breaking the rules. When it says, “No open fires of any kind,” it means it.