After a controlled burn slipped away from local residents last month and devoured 32 acres, local fire officials are concerned a dry winter may give birth to a perilous spring fire season.
Thats one of the major causes of wildfires, or grass fires, is controlled burns getting out of control, said Jeff Vandevoorde, chief of the Cortez Fire Protection District.
Many Montezuma County residents burn brush, fields and ditches in the spring.
Cortez fire officials encourage residents initiating a controlled burn to keep water on hand, notify dispatch ahead of time, keep areas around structures clear and driveways accessible to fire trucks.
Assistant Fire Chief Charles Balke said those initiating a burn should be smart, use caution and take every precaution possible.
Bigger is not always better, Balke said. Its a lot better and a lot safer if youre going to do a controlled burn to do it in small piles and keep the flames small so it is easier to control and keep from getting away from anyone.
On Feb. 28, residents of Montezuma County Road 25 lost control of a fire that burned 32 acres, destroyed fencing, burned irrigation equipment and threatened homes.
We were very fortunate at that time that we were able to stop it on both ends, Vandevoorde said.
When burning fields, Balke recommends first burning a 10-foot fire break, or control line, around the fields perimeter.
Instead of lighting it and letting it go, start out small, he said. Its like doing a controlled burn along the outer edges. And that allows for the center of a field to be controlled a lot easier.
Soaking surrounding terrain with water ahead of time also hinders accidental spread of fire, Balke said.
The day of a burn, individuals are advised to call Cortez dispatch at 565-8441 to see if burning is allowed on that day and to prevent false alarms. Keeping shovels, rakes, hoses, fire extinguishers or at least five gallons of water on hand is also advised.
Burns should be attended at all times, Vandevoorde said.
Open fires, burning ditches, clearing fields are very dangerous just because the embers can go in your neighbors field or barn and hay, he said.
Individuals can be held liable for damage to their neighbors property, Balke said.
To protect property from out-of-control burns and wildfires, officials recommend keeping a 100-foot defensible space around structures clear of firewood, brush, tall grass, weeds or other fuels.
Vandevoorde recommends keeping an emergency kit with medications and essentials in case residents need to be quickly evacuated from their home for a few days while a fire passes. Having home addresses clearly marked and driveways free of obstructions facilitates a rapid response for emergency vehicles.
Using accelerants such as gasoline is not recommended by officials as the ignition of accumulated fumes may cause explosions or burns.
Reach Reid Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.