Grand County Trails: Preventing forest fires is our responsibility — also quit feeding the bears |

Grand County Trails: Preventing forest fires is our responsibility — also quit feeding the bears

Diana Lynn Rau
Grand County Trails

Sitting out on my back patio with my morning coffee, I listened to the birds singing and the trees rustling, or at least what I could hear amid the rumble of campers and other vehicles passing on US Highway 40 below.

I watched a beautiful fox cross the meadow below. The grass and plants are shades of green, and the colorful daffodils and tulips in Tim’s Garden are a beautiful contrast.

Speaking of contrasts, my thoughts turn to those who lost everything in the fires last year. I remember driving up Colorado Highway 125 and US Highway 34 for the first time to survey the desolation created by the East Troublesome Fire and tears came to my eyes. I just couldn’t imagine the beautiful sight turning to ashes.

Last week, the Denver Post stated the Western fire season is starting drier than 2020.

“As bad as last year’s record-shattering fire season was, the Western US starts this year in even worse shape,” says Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press.

Park Williams, a UCLA climate and fire scientist, “calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. This summer we’re going into fire season with drier fuels than we were at this time last year.”

And the situation is getting worse week by week, especially since last year’s monsoon season, which was supposed to bring much of the year’s moisture, never showed up.

Most of the vehicles I heard on this morning were coming to Grand County to their treasured getaway in the mountains to escape the heat and hustle of the city. Some were coming to visit others who are lucky enough to live here. Others just want to get into the “wilderness” for their own experiences.

Once here, they want to build campfires and don’t understand they need to make sure conditions are safe for an open flame. The Grand County Wildfire Council recently produced a “Fire Restriction 101” flier meant to guide people with fire information and precautions.

“Improperly doused or misplaced fires are one of the leading causes of wildfires,” says Schelly Olson, Grand Fire Assistant Fire Chief.

The Wildfire Council advises keep fires small — 3 feet in diameter is the max — and inside a metal ring or permanent structure. Rocks do not make a permanent fire ring. Check for proper conditions, never burn in high winds or leave a fire unattended.

Please, do not burn slash piles during the summer months, as that is only allowed November thru April while snow is on the ground. People should also know that burn barrels are now illegal since they do not combust efficiently, create a smoke nuisance, and produce toxic pollutants. Dispose of smoking materials in places where they cannot be a source of ignition — or better yet, don’t smoke.

Guests should also learn the difference between Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire restrictions and the meaning of red flag warnings — or when conditions are ripe for wildland fire ignition and rapid propagation.

For more information, visit the wildfire council at, email or call 970-627-7121.

Damage from the East Troublesome Fire.
Courtesy Diana Lynn Rau

Additionally, please don’t be the person who provides wildlife with appetizing trash and keeps that bear coming back for more. Sadly, a fed bear is often a dead bear and relocation does not help that learned habit. That bear must be put down or it will continue to root out trash and become dangerous to humans.

Weekenders often put out their trash when leaving, even though pickup may not be for several days. I have cleaned up too many scattered piles and left many notes on people’s doors. When camping, keep your food suspended out of reach and no food in your tent to temp the critters who are only following their sensitive noses. We want to see the wildlife, not need to kill them for the habits we create in them.

Be responsible out there!

A black bear jumps out of a dumpster in this image from 2017. Conflicts between people and wildlife are common across the High Country, and many of those encounters could easily be avoided.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot File Photo

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