Wildfire history in Park County makes ordinances concerning open fires and permits for open fires a serious matter. A new county-wide ordinance, which went into effect June 6, reflects just that.

The new ordinance was a joint effort by the fire chiefs of the six districts and the Sheriff. The ban focuses on enforcement, county-wide uniformity amongst the county’s fire districts, and flexibility allowing for different conditions that might exist throughout the expansive and diverse county.

The latest ordinance, according to Platte Canyon Fire Protection District Chief Joe Burgett, offers greater uniformity in terms of the procedures, rules and regulations pertaining to open fires, permits and burn bans.

“Different districts used to have different verbiage and varying regulations, but now there is more uniformity across the county as a result of the new ordinance,” Burgett said.

Regarding enforcement, the new ordinance mandates that “This ordinance will be enforced by the Sheriff, through his deputies, or by the administrating agencies of the state and federal lands located therein, and they shall have the authority to order any person to immediately cease any violations of this order. This authority shall include, but not limited to, the right to issue a penalty assessment notice and the right to take such persons into temporary custody.”

While that language might sound somewhat rigid or unforgiving at first glance, Burgett states the county’s rather simple position in more personable terms.

The business of issuing burn bans can be tricky in an area as large and diverse as Park County. Conditions are constantly changing, and conditions can, and usually do, vary sharply from one location to another. The new ordinance allows for those variances and offers authorities the flexibility to call for bans according to conditions in specific locations at any given time.

“I think I speak for everyone enforcing these measures when I say that none of us want to issue a ticket to anyone,” Burgett said. “What we do want is for people to respect and abide by our burn bans when conditions call for them.”

In the past, the role of enforcement has often fallen more to firefighters than the Sheriff’s Office. This ordinance gives the Park County Sheriff’s Department a more definitive role in issuing and enforcing fire bans.

In addition to the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District, Park County also contains Elk Creek Fire Protection District, Hartsel Fire Protection District, Jefferson/Como Fire Protection District, Lake George Fire Protection District, NorthWest Fire Protection District and the Southern Park County Fire Protection District.

Fire bans are issued when deemed necessary, and those times might also vary from year to year, or season to season. This spring has been exceptionally moist compared the spring of 2018, so bans that might have been in place last year at this time have not been necessary this year.

According to Burgett, however, moist spring and early-summer conditions might translate into greater fire danger later in the year.

“All the vegetation resulting from moisture eventually cures out and at some point can create greater fire danger,” Burgett said. “But conditions right now are crazily different than what we had at this time last year.”

The new Park County Ordinance 19-01 is titled, “An ordinance of Park County, Colorado, regulating open fires, requiring a permit for open fires and open burning, and authorizing the Park County Sheriff to declare burn bans.”

The ordinance can be viewed in its entirety online at www.parkco.us. All Park County residents are encouraged to review the document as a means of staying informed about open fire burning restrictions and permits.

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