Restrictions on fires and open burning remain active throughout Southwest Colorado.
In late August, Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide fire ban on campfires and other open burning as wildfires raged across Colorado, the majority of which were caused by humans.
The statewide fire ban expired Wednesday, but Polis extended an order that allows county commissioners the ability to issue fire restrictions without a finding of high fire danger, which expires on Nov. 4 unless otherwise extended.
“Given the state’s need to focus on COVID-19 mitigation efforts, it is imperative that the state take every action to reduce the risk of wildfire,” Polis said in the order.
A total of six wildfires have burned through more than 323,000 acres in Colorado this year. The largest, the Cameron Peak Fire, has burned an estimated 128,000 acres and was about 40% contained as of Wednesday.
The entire state of Colorado is in some level of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Nearly the entire Western Slope is listed in the “extreme drought” category.
Regardless of Polis’ expired statewide ban, people in Southwest Colorado still are not allowed to have campfires – the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests recently announced they would remain in Stage 1 fire restrictions.
“With hunting season kicking off and recreation continuing, fires caused by humans are a major concern,” said Esther Godson, spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest.
Godson said Forest Service officials found three illegal campfires over the weekend – one on the Dolores Ranger District, where the person was given a ticket, and two abandoned campfires on the Columbine Ranger District.
As part of Stage 1 restrictions, campfires, as well as charcoal fires, are banned except in a permanent metal or concrete fire pit at maintained Forest Service campgrounds.
Smoking, in most scenarios, is not allowed, except in vehicles, developed recreation sites or in areas that are clear of flammable material. Chainsaws must be outfitted with proper fire-preventive equipment, and explosives are not allowed.
The order remains in effect until the end of the year unless the Forest Service rescinds it.
A previous version of this story incorrectly said Polis’ statewide fire ban had been extended.