Grand County commissioners announce new, higher fines for first-time fire starters
Grand County Commissioners increase fines for those who start fires without a permit or during fire bans
On June 20, two juveniles were arrested after allegedly starting a small wildfire in Kremmling behind the building that houses the elementary and middle school. The boys were caught on camera in the area where the fire began, and officials determined a homemade bottle rocket sparked the blaze. Kremmling Fire, Kremmling Police Department, EMS and the Sheriff’s Office contained and extinguished the fire, which didn’t spread.
Grand County, along with 98.91% of Colorado, is abnormally dry this year. Despite recent rains, the county is currently in Drought Watch. There are currently no fire restrictions in the county, but the risk of fire grows as days get hotter.
In an era of increasing wildfires, Grand County Commissioners have updated two county ordinances as a part of efforts to help mitigate future fires by increasing fees for those who start them.
In an update to Grand County Ordinance 20, “Ordinance on Open Fires Under Certain Conditions,” the commissioners decided to increase penalties for those who conduct open fires, open burning or use incendiary devices such as fireworks during Stage 1, 2 or 3 fire bans. The fee for this Class 2 petty offense is now $1,000. Previously, fees had been graduated from $250, $500 then $1,000 per each violation.
During their June 21 meeting, commissioners spoke with Sheriff Brett Schroetlin about increasing fines in Ordinance 19, “Ordinance for the Regulation of Open Burning in Unincorporated Grand County,” to be a flat $1,000 fee for those who conduct open burning without securing a permit. The previous fees for the ordinance had also been graduated.
“I’m leaning towards mirroring the approach we have now with Ordinance 20,” said Commissioner Rich Cimino. “I think it’s a better approach.”
“I think we should keep things consistent across the board. … It’s going to show our citizens that we’re consistent,”
Sheriff Schroetlin agreed on Ordinance 19’s proposed fine increase.
“The way we’re having fires across the state and across the nation right now, we have to take fire seriously,” he said, discussing the ordinance.
Schroetlin explained how fortunate it was that he and other departments responded quickly to extinguish the fire in Kremmling.
“With winds, that fire could have taken off and gotten to some houses. Fortunately, the conditions didn’t allow it to, but the potential’s out there,” he said. “We need to take this seriously. The county stepping up and making these fines significant is the first step in the process.”
Schroetlin added that the fire department, the sheriff’s department and other entities that respond to wildfire must also advertise that they take residents starting illegal fires seriously.
After this discussion, the Commissioners unanimously moved to increase fines in Ordinance 19 to “only a $1,000 penalty assessment for every single violation.”
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