Teller County and Entire Pikes Peak Region Enacts Stage 1 Fire Restrictions

Rain Clouds Avoiding Local Area; Extended Dry Spell Causing Concerns

Rick Langenberg

So much for the wet spring, and a summer with no fire restrictions and relatively few natural disasters.

And what may have turned into ideal weather for local golfers, hikers, cyclists, campers and event-goers has caused much angst among emergency responders.

With an extended dry trend and hot late summer days scorching the  region and even the high country, Teller County and many municipalities in the area last week declared a Stage 1 Fire ban.

These restrictions mostly impact campers, tourists and visitors to the area with the prohibition of open campfires and stricter guidelines for any type of burning activity outdoors.  Stage 1 guidelines in Teller, though, still permit outdoor smoking and barbecue grilling, as long as proper safety measures take place. In all cases, strong safety guidelines are heavily encouraged for those recreating or doing yard work or attending a Sunday barbecue.

Lengthy heat waves struck the  lower Ute Pass in recent weeks, along with an extended dry spell.

This usually will result in the starting point of fire restrictions.  Stage 1 represents the initial bans, followed by the more restrictive Stage 2 and 3. With Stage 3, the Pike National Forest and most outdoor parks are basically shut down for recreational users. The only time this really came into  play in Teller County was during the Hayman fires of 2002.

On Sept. 14, the Teller County commissioners in a special meeting, at the request of the sheriff and office of emergency management, declared a Stage 1 Fire Ban. The ordinance approved by the commissioners lists what is permitted and what is outlawed.

This followed earlier action by the cities of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and unincorporated areas of El Paso County. Green Mountain Falls Marshal Virgil Hodges reported that GMF also followed suit with the Stage 1 restrictions.

The big culprit is not any raging fires in the area. Instead, these bans are attributed to an extremely dry, lengthy summer, especially in August, generally known as one of the wettest months of the year.

This pronounced dry spell, which may have been welcomed by area recreation-goers, wiped out the huge rains and late snows that pounded the region in the late spring. Don Angell, the director of the county’s  office of emergency management, noted that it doesn’t take long to dry out the area. This extended dry spell has impacted much of the fire fuels, like grasses, bushes, and some small trees in the region,  according to officials.

This differs vastly from the earlier look of the region.

In fact, for much of the early summer, Teller reaped the benefits of an unusual greening.  Golfers at Shining Mountain golf course in Woodland Park may not have enjoyed Masters-like greens, but they reaped the benefits of stellar playing conditions.

Plus, the heavily touted Independence-day fireworks shows in Cripple Creek  and Colorado Springs occurred with no interruptions.

Now, officials are asking residents and visitors to display much vigilance.

“Really what we’re asking the public to do is be mindful.” said Colorado Springs Fire Department Captain Mike Smaldino, according to Fox 21 report.  “We’re hoping to be to get out of it as quickly as possible but, its heightened awareness that we need and that’s where everyone comes in.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Teller  County Administrator Sheryl Decker. She doesn’t believe the Stage 1 restrictions will impact local residents that much. In fact, residents were often  surprised they didn’t have to deal with restrictions this year. This has become a reality that most high country dwellers, who live in sizzling wildland fire zones, face nearly every summer and fall.

 Decker worries, however, that visitors may not realize these restrictions are in place.  As a result, county and city officials plan to increase public awareness regarding the recently-implemented bans.  This message is heavily emphasized on both the Teller County and the Woodland Park website and on many social media outlets.

On the upside, the area has escaped the 2021 fire season with few big disasters. But based on the language of the new ban, this trend could change rapidly.

With Stage 1 restrictions, the following is a list of the  main prohibitions.

*Burning of materials not contained in an outdoor fireplace or permanent fire ring

*Use of any explosives (except for permitted mining operations)

*Use of fireworks of any type (except commercial fireworks within city limits).

*Firing of model rockets

*Burning of irrigation ditches unless completely surrounded by irrigated farmlands where burning is necessary for crop survival


For more information, residents are asked to contact their local fire department for details of the restrictions that have been implemented.