Fire bans in Boulder and Golden as Lower North Fork Fire blazes out of control

The Lower North Fork Fire has already resulted in two fatalities and remains uncontained at this writing -- and the conditions that have fueled it are clearly not lost on officials in other communities. Below, see information about newly announced fire bans in Boulder and Golden, as well as a release from Senator Mark Udall noting, among other things, that FEMA funds have been approved to help pay for the Lower North Fork effort.

Boulder County Sheriff's Office release:

Sheriff Pelle Orders Outdoor Fire Ban

Boulder County has seen little moisture over the past month and fire conditions continue to worsen as little relief is anticipated. In addition, Red Flag Fire and high wind warnings and watches have continued to be issued almost weekly. The National Weather Service has declared March 2012 as the driest month on record. These weather conditions along with a series of at least three human-caused fires this past week have prompted Sheriff Joe Pelle to pro-actively respond by issuance of a Fire Ban.

State statutes authorize counties to impose a fire ban when "the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, loss of life or property resulting from any natural cause or cause of human origin, including but not limited to fire..."

Responding to the current threats and conditions, Sheriff Joe Pelle has enacted a fire ban restricting open burning. The sale of fireworks and use of fireworks and model rockets is prohibited in all unincorporated areas of Boulder County. The Sheriff requests that outdoor recreational shooting be considered hazardous and the public should take great caution or even refrain from these activities.

The Fire Ban allows for:

• Fire contained within Liquid or gas fuel stoves

• Camp fires in USFS improved/maintained campgrounds that are currently open to the public.

• Charcoal grill fires on private lands

It bans all other open fire, the use of any kind of fireworks and model rockets.

The restrictions will take effect at 1030 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012. A copy of the Sheriff's order is attached to this media release. Advisory signs will be posted on roadways countywide by the end of this week.

The Fire ban will remain in effect until the hazardous fire conditions subside.

Anyone found in violation of the Fire Ban may be convicted of a class 2 petty offense and may be subject to a $500 fine. Higher fines may be imposed for subsequent offenses.

City of Golden Fire Department release:

Golden Temporary Fire Ban

Golden, Colo. - March 27, 2012 -- Due to deteriorating conditions with dry weather and strong winds, the Golden Fire Department is imposing temporary fire restrictions effective Wednesday, March 28 at 8 a.m. These restrictions are for the corporate city limits of Golden and are independent of any fire restrictions or bans in Jefferson County.

All open burning, including bonfires; open flame torches and welding in wildfire risk areas; public fireworks displays; and model rockets are prohibited.

Exceptions to these temporary restrictions include: outdoor cooking fires contained within commercial gas fueled grills, enclosed wood or wood pellet grills or smokers; enclosed outdoor fireplaces or chimineas; powered yard equipment for landscape purposes; any federal, state or local law enforcement officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.

The fire restrictions will remain in effect indefinitely. Fire Chief John Bales will continue to monitor the risks and reassess as the weather changes.

Senator Mark Udall release:

Udall Statement on Lower North Fork Fire

With the Lower North Fork Fire burning over 3,000 acres in Jefferson County last night and today, Mark Udall released the following statement.

"My condolences go out to the families who have lost their homes in the Lower North Fork Fire in Jefferson County, and my thoughts are with the first responders and wildland firefighters who are working nonstop to contain the blaze and protect communities. I urge Coloradans to be patient and prepared, and follow the direction of emergency managers. Heeding evacuation notices is crucial to keeping residents out of harm's way and helping firefighters to do their jobs.

"I am pleased that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Lower North Fork Fire. The FEMA funding will go toward paying up to 75 percent of the firefighting costs -- this will go a long way toward helping ease the financial burden on state and local agencies as they utilize volunteer and paid firefighters, aerial support and tankers, and other equipment to keep this fire from spreading further.

"As we all watch this fire unfold, I urge Coloradans across the state who live in the wildland-urban interface to take proactive steps to protect their homes and communities. Wildfire season usually starts much later in the year in Colorado, and the dry and gusty conditions that have fueled this fire and others hint that it will be a very long firefighting season.

"Last year, I requested a scientific study on the 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire in Boulder County. The resulting U.S. Forest Service report lays out the factors that influenced the most expensive fire in Colorado history so that our government agencies and homeowners can better prepare for future fire emergencies. I urge home and business owners to clear the home-ignition zones around their structures -- past fires that devastated Colorado communities have taught us that the most important yard tool you can have if you live in a wildfire-prone area is not a chainsaw; it's a rake and a weed-whacker. I'll keep working with federal agencies to do everything I can to secure firefighting assistance for Coloradans."

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More from our News archive: "Boulder Fourmile Canyon fire photo gallery: Most beautiful shots of a horrible blaze."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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