Don’t be a bozo when it’s this dry

The haze that obscured the Bookcliffs and Grand Mesa Tuesday is the product of a Utah wildfire that had grown into the largest active blaze in the U.S.

The firefighting costs have topped $7 million for a fire started June 17 near the Brian Head Resort in southern Utah by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds.

Needless to say, with persistent dry conditions and a red flag warnings in effect, don’t be the knucklehead who lets a careless act turn a spark into unnecessary and costly tragedy.

We’ve already seen it happen this fire season. Fire investigators suspect a discarded cigarette ignited a five-acre blaze in the vicinity of 28 Road and C-3/4 Road earlier this month that demolished four structures and threatened nearby subdivisions.

Weather forecasters and firefighters are continuing to monitor hot, dry conditions in western Colorado, as winds are expected to pick up today, creating a prime opportunity for a smoldering cigarette butt to touch off a raging wildfire.

Mesa County last week became the first on the Western Slope to be subject to Stage 1 fire restrictions. Garfield County followed suit Tuesday.

These are common-sense restrictions, but they’re worth repeating given the penalty for failure to follow them. As the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon summed up neatly: “If it strikes, flicks or sparks, don’t use it. So no matches, no lighters and especially no fireworks.”

Other prohibitions include:

■ Any campfire outside of a permanent fire grate in a developed park, campground, residence or picnic area

■ Smoking, except in enclosed vehicles or buildings or within an outside area cleared of combustible material within a 6-foot diameter.

■ Explosive targets

■ Operating any internal- or external-combustion engine without an operating spark arrestor.

■ Welding or the use of acetylene or other open-flame torches, unless in an area of 10 feet in diameter that is cleared of combustible material. A chemical pressurized fire extinguisher also must be nearby.

A red flag warning means critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A fire weather watch, which means critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur, is in effect for most of western Colorado and eastern Utah today.

Hot, dry weather is expected for the next week. Wind conditions add some variability to fire danger, but until we get some precipitation, we’re just a spark away from a runaway conflagration.

We’re sitting on a powder keg, folks, so let’s use some good judgment.


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