County adopts fire ban ordinance

ALAMOSA — After discussing an updated draft to the Alamosa County fire ban ordinance back on March 21, county commissioners adopted the new regulations during their Wednesday meeting. Now either the sheriff or commissioners can enact fire restrictions whenever necessary, without a scheduled meeting beforehand.

"It is sorely needed based on our weather forecast for the year and our conditions in the Valley," said Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson. "It's going to be a scientifically based decision and it's not going to be a whim of the sheriff." 

The data used for matrices analyzed by officials will be collected from the weather station at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve rather than those located at higher elevations in the surrounding mountains.

"That accurately shows what we are," said Paul Duarte of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. "Right now if you look at the other ones, they say the fire danger is pretty low."

The resolution also automatically takes the county—excluding incorporated areas such as the city of Alamosa and the town of Hooper—to the first stage of bans, eliminating open burning, any time the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning.

That stage also includes banning burning drainage ditches, the sale or use of fireworks, and outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building or away from all flammable materials.

At the second stage all outdoor smoking is banned—even if the person is away from flammable materials—and operating any internal combustion engine is prohibited on public lands without a proper spark-arresting device installed. Outdoor welding is also banned unless the work is away from flammable materials or a fire extinguisher or water supply is available.

Not complying will result in a $250 fine for the first offense, scaling to $1,000 for additional offenses past the third within 180 days of the initial offense. Violators are also subject to a $10 surcharge in addition to the penalites.

There are exemptions to the ban, however. Permitted prescribed burns and firework displays are allowed along with indoor fireplaces, indoor wood-burning stoves and gas-fueled stoves. Outdoor charcoal grills and wood-burning stoves are allowed during the first stage provided they are at a private residence and not near flammable materials such as dry vegetation.

"It's definitely needed," said Alamosa County resident Ron Brink during the comment portion of the public hearing. "We have unpredictable weather here and we have got to make people aware how dangerous this burning can be."

The entire ordinance can be read in the April 13 edition of the Valley Courier.