Commissioners Enact Fire Restrictions Effective July 1, 2016

Commissioners Enact Fire Ban July 1, 2016
Posted on 07/06/2016
Commissioners Enact Fire Ban July 1, 2016

Due to the hot, dry conditions and low humidity in La Plata County, and the serious threat of fire danger that these conditions impose, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners enacted restrictions effective at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2016 on open burning south of Highway 160 in the unincorporated private land and State land areas of La Plata County. The fire restrictions were enacted by the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners upon the recommendation of Sheriff Sean Smith and the Chiefs of the local fire districts.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has enacted similar Stage I fire restrictions to take effect on July 1, 2016 for Tribal lands. The San Juan Public Lands Center, which manages US Forest Service, BLM and Bureau of Reclamation lands in La Plata County, will continue to monitor conditions and may enact similar Stage I fire restrictions.

“Local agencies participate in a scientific process that looks at vegetation types and moisture content from lower elevations to higher elevations,” explained Butch Knowlton, La Plata County Emergency Management Director. “Using this scientific evaluation process, each elevation has different wildland fire potential and different restriction needs.  Currently, the high elevations do not have the fire potential that the lower elevations do, which are generally located south of US Highway 160 in La Plata County.  This is why we are recommending Stage I Fire Restrictions south of Highway 160.”

The fire restrictions prohibit open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning on private property and State lands south of Highway 160 in the unincorporated private land areas of La Plata County.  The use of a campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal grill or open fire in any undeveloped area is prohibited.  The fire restrictions do not include charcoal fires in suitable containers or gas grills for barbeques at private residences or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates; however, residents and visitors alike must not to leave these fires unattended and must carefully and fully extinguish them after use. 

The open flame prohibitions also include the following: 

  • Smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreational areas and 3-foot-wide areas cleared of vegetation;
  • Fireworks are prohibited;
  • Use of explosive material is prohibited;
  • Use of any internal combustion engine is prohibited unless it is equipped with an approved and functioning spark-arresting device;
  • Welding and cutting operations must be conducted with a 20-foot radius safe zone free of vegetation with a 2.5 gallon pressurized fire extinguisher or 5 lb. ABC extinguisher or pressurized water supply and proper hand tools on site with a fire watch individual standing by continuously; and
  • Flaring for production wells may be allowed with approval from the designated fire chief.

A violation of the fire restrictions shall constitute a class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each violation. 

If conditions warrant, the restrictions do provide flexibility to the local fire chiefs to ease restrictions or allow certain activities within their respective jurisdictions, if they deem such actions to be safe, appropriate and prudent in their professional opinion. There are four fire districts within La Plata County serving different geographic areas of the County. To obtain specific information, please contact a fire department listed below based on the location of the property and the areas they serve:

  • Durango Fire Protection District (for City of Durango and properties in the Animas valley corridor from the north county line to New Mexico), visit to fill out the online permit, or call 970-382-6023.
  • Upper Pine Fire Protection District (for the Town of Bayfield and properties east of Bayfield north to Vallecito), visit to fill out the online permit, or call 970-884-9508;
  • Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District (for properties in west La Plata County surrounding Hesperus to the Colorado/New Mexico state line on Highway 140), please call 970-238-0115; or
  • Los Pinos Fire Protection District (for the Town of Ignacio and properties in the southeast corner of La Plata County and surrounding Ignacio), please call 970-563-9501.

Please contact the San Juan Public Lands Center at 970-247-4874 for information on fire restrictions on the San Juan National Forest, Bureau of Land Management or Bureau of Reclamation lands within La Plata County. Please contact Southern Ute BIA Forestry at 970-563-4571 for restrictions in Southern Ute Tribal Lands.

The La Plata County fire management agencies will continue to monitor the situation and if the conditions continue to deteriorate, a more restrictive fire ban may be developed.  The fire restrictions will remain in effect until such time as the threat of fire danger in La Plata County has reduced significantly, as determined by the Sheriff, local fire chiefs and County Director of Emergency Management.

At the time of this release all public fireworks displays for Fourth of July celebrations will continue under the supervision of the respective fire districts, however final decisions will be made as conditions change.

(Note: A copy of the Board’s resolution is attached.)