Monsoon Invasion Lifts Teller County From Serious Fire Danger Levels

Burning restrictions to remain intact

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Rain, rain: Please go away.

That’s the predominant wish of local softball players, golfers, hikers, picnickers, mountain bikers, anglers and recreation-goers, who are enjoying the latest monsoon season about as much as a punch to the head; or worse yet, the dreadful experience of another marathon Woodland Park city council meeting. The barrage of afternoon rain storms, expected to continue for several weeks, has put a damper on the great outdoor antics in our region.  

If you want to partake in a hike, hit the links or go fishing, make plans early in the morning. Or else bring some heavy-duty rain gear.

But on the upside, emergency responders and firefighter are now breathing a big sigh of relief, as Teller County and lower Ute Pass region appears to have escaped another summer unscathed from wildfires and scary dry spells. “We are doing pretty good,” said Steve Steed, the director of emergency management for Teller County. “We have seen pretty consistent moisture levels and our forecasts look good.”

Steed admits the recent return to monsoon-level trends has helped the region escape any potential fire dangers. So far, Teller is on track to experience a year with no major blazes. Also, 2017 may mark another year with no substantial government-issued fire bans for any extended period.

Steed cited a good level of moisture for grass and forest areas in most parts of the county, but depicted some problem sections in southern Teller and even in the border between Teller and Douglas counties. However, the county has fared much better than it did around the July 4th celebration, with heavy fire dangers reported at several key recreation areas.  

Still, the region isn’t out of the woods yet from a threat level. As a result, burning restrictions are still intact and will remain in place, at least for several more weeks.

According to the emergency manager, this means residents can pursue outdoor barbecues and campfires as long as they abide by good fire protection guidelines and basic common sense. “We don’t have any fire bans in place. We just have burning restrictions,” said Steed.

Currently, property owners can’t burn trash, slash or use fireworks.

These burn restrictions will be reviewed at a later date. If the current monsoon weather patterns continue, the prohibition, especially against trash and slash burning with appropriate permits, could be lifted, noted the emergency management chief. He said the current moisture levels aren’t enough to lift the burning restrictions right now.

Moderate Fire Dangers

Steed sees Teller with a similar threat level as last year, with the fire dangers often listed as slightly above the moderate range. He is optimistic of the limited fire danger prospects for this year, but advised residents to remain vigilant

He also gives much of the credit to local citizens and property owners.

“The citizens have really helped us out,” said Steed.

He has noticed big improvements in fire mitigation efforts taken throughout the county in rural areas, with many property owner associations getting into the tree and vegetation trimming act. Also, residents are abiding by burn restrictions and occasional fire bans.

“We are getting very few complaints,” said Steed. Plus, residents are getting very observant at informing authorities about possible fires and hot spots. Moreover, he believes the idea of fire bans is being accepted more throughout the county.

Luckily for Teller, the current timing of storms has worked out well, and didn’t impact the Independence week celebrations.   

With the current moist conditions, fires can usually be controlled fairly quickly due to the grass moisture levels, noted Steed.

One danger area that has hit the high country hinges on forest sections inflicted by beetle kill. This was responsible for a huge fire in Breckenridge that prompted many evacuations. The beetle kill woes have even sparked many concerns in the Crags area by Forest Service officials, with hundreds of dead trees, leading to closures.

Still, even with the monsoon season, it doesn’t take long for the area to dry out with the high country’s semi-arid climate.

For key tips regarding overall fire safety, Steed advises residents to always have an evacuation plan in place; and have a main area in your home to store crucial documents and medicine, in case you have to leave. Also, keep an eye on short and long-term weather forecasts, as conditions always change rapidly. And more importantly, establish a minimum 25-foot defensive area in front of your house.

For more information, visit the Teller County government’s main website.