Fire Restrictions Close San Juan National Forest in Colorado
.San Juan National Forest in western Colorado closed this week due to a fire that has consumed 22,000 acres since June 1. The park covers over 1.8 million acres across the state and is now under Stage 3 fire restrictions. The park is not allowing anyone, except those specified below, into the national forest. This fire is not the only one that has started recently either.
What Are the Stages of Fire Restrictions?
There are four different stages when it comes to fire restrictions, 1 being the smallest restriction and 4 the most severe. It is important to know these restrictions. In the case of fires in your area, you will understand what officials expect of you. Restrictions are always implemented to preserve human life, as well as the plants and animals within the park.
You cannot build a fire or smoke unless it is in specified designated areas. The park still permits the use of firearms, chainsaws, and heating devices that meet the park’s qualifications.
Forest personnel prohibits the following activities: building a fire, smoking, using explosives, operating a chainsaw, welding, shooting firearms, and driving off park roads. Under a Stage 2 restriction, parks allow common generators and other heating devices. This is only as long as they meet the specified qualifications.
Technically, there is not really a Stage 3 because the park’s next step if conditions worsen is to close the park. The only people allowed into the park are the officers and firefighters involved with the fire, residents, and business owners who have property within the park. Other areas that the park keeps open are still available to the public.
At this stage, the fires are so severe that the park permits no one, except officials, to enter the restricted area. The park will issue when they drop the severe restriction.
What Happens If Someone Violates the Restriction?
Fire restrictions should not be taken lightly. Those caught within the park or performing a non-permitted act are subject to a 5,000 to 10,000 dollar fine, a six-month prison sentence, or both.
Richard Bustamante, a fire staff officer for the San Juan National Forest, stated that “under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property.”
What Damages Have Occurred?
Firefighters have contained only 10 percent of the wildfire, and 1,500 residents evacuated the area. The fire has not caused any injuries or loss of homes, but it has drastically affected the air quality. Personnel have cautioned nearby residents who are not evacuating to stay indoors until the air clears. Those with additional health risks will need to take further precautions.
What Can I Do?
The best thing you can do is prevent forest fires from happening in the first place. When going camping, hiking, or any other outdoor activity, be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave fires unattended or even leave a way for a fire to spark. These small things will prevent the loss of forests and wildlife.
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