Grand to review fire restrictions for upcoming season
Grand County commissioners want local experts to re-evaluate aspects of local fire restrictions.
Tuesday’s meeting included a workshop related to exploding targets but ended with a desire to take a larger look at various aspects of fire restrictions in the county.
Following public comments, Commissioner Rich Cimino recommended that the Grand County sheriff — who makes fire ban recommendations to the commissioners — meet with Grand’s five fire districts, three public land entities and the Grand County Wildfire Council for further discussions.
The meeting would not just be about exploding targets, but look at the scientific criteria used to determine when Grand implements fire restrictions. Cimino thought it best to see if county experts have any recommendations about what should be modified or changed along with what items fall into each restriction level.
Additionally, Cimino wanted the group’s recommendation on where the county can invest in mitigation programs beginning this year. Sheriff Brett Schroetlin had also requested via email that the commissioners look at revising fines and the penalty for violating fire restrictions.
Most of Tuesday’s workshop, however, focused on exploding targets in specific. Exploding targets like Tannerite are a prepackaged combination of chemicals that, once mixed, explode when shot.
Concerns were raised last summer related to the use of such materials during Stage One fire restrictions, which is currently permitted under that phase, though other high-risk activities like dispersed campfires are not. Exploding targets are banned in Stage Two restrictions along with all open flames.
Exploding targets are banned on US Forest Service lands across the Rocky Mountain Region, including in Grand County. For the Bureau of Land Management lands, they are prohibited at Stage One fire restrictions.
Residents on the eastern side of the county described activities that caused windows to rattle from the repeated explosions on private land. Residents feared that this level of use during Stage One restrictions could cause a wildfire.
“After last year’s fire season and the fact that we’re a little bit low on snow this year, coming into this season there’s a deep concern that anything that we can possibly do to minimize potential fires — which exploding targets may be one — be addressed,” county resident Jill Childress said.
Childress asked that exploding targets be included in the county’s Stage One fire ban. A number of representatives for homeowner associations also voiced support for such a move.
“Exploding targets have a history of causing wildfires in other states and other counties that are very expensive,” said Deb Thomas-Dobersen, representing the Valley at Winter Park’s homeowners association.
Mike Hagerty, president of the Winter Park Highlands Association, added that many of the HOAs in the area spend a lot of money to improve wildfire mitigation and safety.
“It seems to me that during wildfire season, any opportunity to limit an ignition source when things do get dicey, it just makes sense to me,” Hagerty said.
Two Grand County fire chiefs also chimed in. Chief Todd Holzwarth of the East Grand Fire Protection District said that with the heat and flames generated by exploding targets, the county should explore adjusting restrictions.
Grand Fire Protection District Chief Brad White added that the Stage One restriction intends to eliminate the fire risks that are hardest to control.
“The use of exploding targets most closely fits in with the other things that get eliminated with the Stage One restriction,” White said. “(Exploding targets) are a little newer so we’ve slowly dealt with them, and I think it’s time we treat them like everything else that gets eliminated in the Stage One restriction.”
The county commissioners agreed to consider possible changes for all aspects of the fire restrictions after local fire experts had a chance to talk and make recommendations.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 166 calls from Feb. 14-20 while dispatchers answered 417 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.