Ouray County adopts fire ban, citing wildfire risk

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The Board of County Commissioners approved a county-wide stage one fire ban starting Thursday, preventing the use of fireworks over the July 4 weekend. 

Commissioner Ben Tisdel requested the board discuss the issue at the meeting Tuesday. He said neighboring counties were issuing or considering issuing the bans. 

“I think that we probably need to consider going into Stage One (restrictions) if not this week then probably at least by next week,” said Sheriff Lance FitzGerald, who is in charge of enforcing the ban.

FitzGerald cited the extremely dry conditions of Loghill Mesa and the area near Dave Wood Road, in the northern part of the county, as cause for a ban.

Tisdel expressed concern with occupants of short-term rentals on Loghill Mesa starting a wildfire with fireworks over the holiday weekend and said Ouray County should not wait for other counties to make the first move.

“It appears in this case that other counties are actually waiting for us,” Tisdel said.

Chairman Don Batchelder said it was in the county’s best interest to enact the ban before the holiday weekend.

“The situation is not going to get any better, and with the sheriff saying it would be a reasonable step if not this week, then next week, my inclination would be trying to do it prior to this weekend only because of the potential influx of visitors," he said. "Though historically (fireworks) are centered in Ouray, where there is not going to be anything happening in Ouray, that influx is going to be dispersed more throughout the county. So I think it would be in the county’s best interest to do it prior to this weekend."

The fireworks show in Ouray has already been canceled due to COVID-19. The closest holiday fireworks shows will be held in Delta and Gunnison.

Along with personal use of fireworks, a stage one fire ban prohibits all fires except those in permanent pits or grates, smoking when not in an enclosed vehicle, building or recreational area unless stopped in a barren area of 3-ft diameter. Other prohibited activities include operating a chainsaw without a spark arrester and welding with an open flame, unless in a 10-foot cleared area.

Cooking on charcoal, liquid fuel or propane and fires in chiminea-type enclosures on private property are still allowed under the stage one restrictions.