Mountain Manners: No Burn, Baby!

As of noon on June 14, 2018, Gunnison County is in Stage 2 Fire Restrictions. This means NO FIRES. Period. If you want a real-time update on the situation in Gunnison County, call (970) 642-4686 for the recorded message about current fire restrictions. For questions, please call the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 641-1113.

For Colorado as a whole, information on current wildfires can be found on the Colorado Tourism Office website.

I love fires. I love campfires. I love fireplaces. I love grilling food over wood or charcoal.

By the end of the fall, our family will have ten cords of wood sitting outside to get us through the winter. There is nothing so sweet as a hot fire on a cold winter night. There is nothing like radiant heat to warm the body and the soul.

But at the moment fires spook me. We have fires to the southwest of us in the San Juans. We have fires to the northeast of us in Summit County. Who’s to say we won’t have fires here in the Gunnison Valley, and very shortly?

I walk across the field in front of our house and the wild grasses don’t give, they break. Crunch, crunch underfoot. We are dry as a bone.

singletrack trail leading through a field of lupine to Gothic Mountain near Crested Butte

Deer Creek Trail looks green in this shot from Sunday, June 10, but it normally doesn’t get this dusty until late June.

No snow. Then no rain.

When Yellowstone burned in 1988, we could smell it here. 600 miles away. In 2006 or 2007, when Montana was burning, we and some friends were trapped in the Absaroka Wilderness, having gone in before it was closed for travel because of fire. We lived in the Roaring Fork Valley when 14 smoke jumpers and other firefighters were killed in the South Canyon fire.

We all see the now-routine California fires on the news.

Heartbreaking to me is the current news that Summit County residents are refused reentry into whatever roads they access to save their pets from fire. How do you explain that to your favorite dog?

A friend and I were on a bike ride this past Saturday. We spied, surprising to both of us, large stands of dead firs. The size of the stands being the surprise.

I don’t appreciate nags. I’m not about to tell a little girl that she shouldn’t pick a wildflower, one among a million of our wildflowers. I will pour bacon grease out on the ground at a back-country camp instead of packing it out. I will pitch my tent too close to a high-country stream.

But I will become a nag now as all of us should with regard to fires and carelessness which could cause a big wildfire. People cause most wildfires. Not lightning strikes. How does that happen? Burning debris at home (I have done it). Engine sparks (I’m still using my chainsaw, but it has a spark suppressor). Cigarette butts (I used to). Fireworks (I love ‘em). Untended campfires (I awoke one night when a campfire got out of its ring and a grassfire spread).

It’s worth all of us being nags to prevent a major fire on the Gunnison Forest.

Please follow the rules set out by Gunnison County and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call the Sheriff’s Office at (970) 641-113.

Author: John Norton

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