by Rick Langenberg:
Local residents, tourists and recreation buffs can now light campfires, burn their trash and perform other activities in the outdoors that have been banned for most of the summer.
Following the latest bout of rain storms, Teller County and Woodland Park finally agreed to lift their Stage One burn prohibitions.
These were the last two entities that held onto Stage One restrictions, which ban many activities, such as lighting open campfires, burning trash and using fireworks. El Paso County and the U.S. Forest Service recently did away with their burn bans, but a few local governments in Teller weren’t ready to allow open burning until last week.
Similar to the stand of the last few years, Teller officials, led by the county’s emergency management office, have taken an ultra-cautionary, no-nonsense stand regarding burn restrictions. Steve Steed, the director of Emergency Management for Teller County, has reiterated that conditions are still dangerous due to a lingering several-year drought.
For the last few summers, county authorities imposed significant fire restrictions. For a several week period in 2013, most sections of the county were placed under Stage Two restrictions that outlawed outdoor smoking, using charcoal grills and doing many building activities, including running chain saws. These are the most restrictive fire restrictions, next to shutting down recreational areas. All Independence-Day-related commercial fireworks displays in Teller, including big shows normally scheduled in Cripple Creek and Woodland Park, were cancelled due to this ban.
But once the monsoon pattern returned in early July, Teller went back to a Stage One situation, following a decision by the county commissioners. The main factor authorities keep a close eye on deals with energy release statistics, which analyzes how fast a potential fire can spread in the high country. Officials also closely monitor weather predictions.
The recent daily rains have definitely helped, and have kept the county from encountering any significant fire losses and have given Teller a much greener, less arid look than previous summers. During a series of town hall meetings, Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger reported that the county has experienced nearly 150 fire calls in 2013, which is slightly up from last year at this time. But unlike 2012, the 2013 season hasn’t experienced any arson-related blazes or serious wildfires, according to the sheriff, and residents have been extremely vigilant about reporting potential fires. “The public response has made a tremendous difference,” said Ensminger