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Polis to issue 30-day fire ban in Colorado amid surging wildfires, continued heat

Pine Gulch Fire_Aug 10 2020_by Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team
Posted at 4:29 PM, Aug 18, 2020

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday he would be issuing a 30-day ban on fires as four wildfires continue to burn that have already scorched more than 120,000 acres of land in the state.

Many places in the state had already entered Stage 1 or 2 fire restrictions that limited where people could use open flames. But Polis’ fire ban, when it goes into effect, will effectively ban any open flames other than those from personal barbecues, or allowed grills or fire pits.

The ban will be issued in an order Wednesday and will go into effect Thursday, the governor's office said Tuesday evening. The ban will be in effect for 30 days, the governor said.

Gov. Polis announces 30-day fire ban in response to Colorado wildfires

Polis said that the ban was partially due to the fact that several of the four fires are being investigated as being caused by humans.

The Williams Fork Fire in Grand County was determined to be human caused, fire officials have said. The Pine Gulch Fire was believed to have been started by lightning.

Stan Hilkey, the executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Safety, said investigators believe it’s possible that something dragging off a vehicle on I-70 might have started the Grizzly Creek Fire. The cause of the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County remains under investigation.

The fire ban was still being drafted when the officials announced it Tuesday, Hilkey said.

But he added that he wanted Coloradans to take the ban seriously and to self-identify anything that might start a wildfire and not use it.

“We can’t write a ban that bans everything that is risky,” he said.

Hilkey said that the state had so far spent around $10.5 million so far on nine state wildland fire suppression costs, which does not include money the state pays local agencies before it becomes a state-managed fire.

But that compares to around $40 million spent at this point in 2018 on 18 different fires – including the 416 Fire near Durango and the Spring Fire – which was the second-largest in state history. The Pine Gulch Fire was close to becoming the third-largest in state history on Tuesday morning, at 87,209 acres.

The entire state of Colorado is also experiencing some form of drought for the first time in years, and Denver has reached 90 degrees or above 58 days so far in 2020, with more expected. If Denver reaches 90 degrees again Wednesday, as is expected, it would tie 2018 for the year with the fourth-most days at or above 90 degrees, with 59. If Denver reaches 90 degrees four more days this year, 2020 would rank No. 2 on that list, behind 2012.