Dry conditions, hot weather prompt immediate fire restrictions in southeast Utah
by Lisa J. Church
Staff Writer
Jun 27, 2013 | 4086 views | 0 0 comments | 175 175 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Extremely dry conditions and hot weather have prompted state and federal land managers to implement fire restrictions beginning June 27 on state, federal and unincorporated county lands throughout southeast Utah.

“It’s extremely dry and dangerous out there,” said Jason Curry, a spokesman for the Utah Interagency Fire Center. “The orders affect any land within [the counties] that is not part of an incorporated city or town.”

Weather forecasts for Moab as of Wednesday, June 26, project temperatures in the triple digits through July 2 and in the high 90s through July 5, with little to no chance of rain.

Moab Valley Fire Chief Corky Brewer said the planned July 4 public fireworks display in Grand County will take place, unless high winds or additional state actions force cancellation of the event.

Brewer urged city residents to use “common sense” when setting off fireworks within city limits. State law allows the use of fireworks three days prior to July 4 and three days after the holiday, Brewer said.

“We have all these fire closures in the unincorporated areas of the county, but we still have real fire danger in the city,” he said. “People need to take extreme care if they’re going to use fireworks.”

The southeast Utah fire restrictions were scheduled to go into effect at midnight on June 27, officials said. The measure affects all state lands and unincorporated private lands in Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties, Bureau of Land Management lands in those counties, and U.S. Forest Service lands on the Manti-La Sal National Forest located in the Moab and Monticello ranger districts.

The National Park Service this week also announced fire restrictions for Arches and Canyonlands national parks, and Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments. Fires will be permitted only in designated fire grates in developed campgrounds and picnic areas and all open fires are prohibited in backcountry campsites, NPS officials said. Petroleum fueled stoves and grills will still be permitted in designated backcountry campsites and developed campgrounds and picnic areas, officials said. Smoking is prohibited except within enclosed vehicles, parking lots or developed areas that are cleared of all flammable materials for at least three feet in diameter.

In the river corridors within the parks where there are no designated campsites, petroleum fueled stoves are “probably the safest method for cooking, however charcoal fires will be allowed if completely contained within a metal fire pan,” according to a news release from the NPS.

State and federal fire managers came to the mutual decision to implement fire restrictions on Friday, June 21. Each agency has specific restriction orders that may contain different stipulations, but all the orders prohibit setting, building, maintaining, attending or using open fires of any kind, except campfires built within the facilities provided for them in improved campgrounds, picnic areas or residential structures; and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area that is paved, barren or cleared to mineral soil.

Additional restrictions will also be imposed on BLM and state and private unincorporated lands. Those restrictions include the use of cutting, welding and grinding equipment in areas of dry vegetation; discharging, or using any kind of fireworks; and firing steel tipped/core ammunition, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices including exploding targets.

In the Pack Creek Picnic and Recreation Area in San Juan County, all campfires and charcoal are prohibited.

Although the restrictions do not apply to lands within incorporated towns and cities, both Moab city and Castle Valley do have ordinances in place that impose fire restrictions under specific circumstances.

Within Moab city limits, the use of all combustible materials, fireworks, smoking and fire sources of all kinds is prohibited within 150 feet of Mill Creek and Pack Creek. Violators could face a fine of up to $500 and be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail, city officials said in a news release.

Castle Valley’s ordinance prohibits open fires, the use of fireworks and other fire hazards during periods of high fire danger in the town. The ordinance states that at any time that the fire district sign posts a fire hazard at a “High,” “Very High” or “Extreme” level, the following activities are prohibited: open fires; the burning of trash; the use of all types of fireworks including any aerial fireworks such as “bottle” or “penny rockets;” smoking materials must be disposed of safely; and welding, metal grinding or other processes that could produce sparks.

Additional information is available online at www.utahfireinfo.gov, or at the websites for the affected national parks. Information about fireworks safety is available on the Moab Fire Department website, www.moabfiredepartment.com under the “Fire Prevention” list.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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