Before you headed out to snatch that beautiful campsite you, your friends and family had all to yourselves, far from all the overly enthusiastic Americans, did you check whether you would be breaking fire restrictions set by Eagle County? If not, you’ll have better luck next time you get out there to camp by checking www.bit.ly/VailValleyFireRules, and by following those rules of Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, listed above, until further notice.
Whether or not you and your party were rule-breakers this past weekend, you likely value the outdoors and did your best to not burn it down for fireworks viewing pleasure. If you succeeded, congratulations! Whether you spent the weekend in the wildland urban interface or the deep wilderness, as a nature connoisseur, do you know why fires were restricted this weekend?
As Vail continues to grow, more homes and buildings are built, and the wildland urban interface is expanded, the risk for human-caused wildfires increases[i]. Some may know that wildfires are a natural and necessary ecological disturbance to regenerate life in a forest ecosystem. While this is true, human-caused wildfires are not equivalent to naturally occurring wildfires: Human-induced fires are problematic for the chain reaction this sets off in close proximity to buildings and infrastructure, in comparison to igniting farther from large populations. Once a fire is started, it is difficult to contain[ii] and may be carried to surrounding forest areas[iii]. Wildfires have the ability to quickly get out of control thanks to decades of fire suppression originally put into practice to stop the loss of property. This not only puts responders at greater risk, but quickly burns through billions of dollars[iv]. The Lake Christine fire, which southwest Eagle County’s Basalt residents mourned the second anniversary of on Friday, cost over $17 million[v].
All in all, human-caused wildfires are not the answer to our surroundings forests’ ecological health- let’s leave that task to the professionals of our United States Forest Service. Human-caused wildfires also put residents and their homes, as well as visitors and the businesses they enjoy, at risk. However, don’t leave all the work to the Forest Service. There are things that you, too, can do to help avoid and stop wildfires.
- If you must have a campfire to enjoy and embrace the full camping experience, bring a steel fire ring. You can even get one from the nearby Forest Service office in Minturn.
- If you must engage in smoking of any kind in order to relish in and savor the full Colorado experience, consider car camping. Rather than smoking in timber, brush or grass areas – most of which are dry enough to easily ignite – jump in the car, or take a scenic stroll on down to soak your feet in a nice cool lake or river.
- If you must shoot off fireworks or spin sparklers around in order to ___ and ____ the full 4th of July holiday (even after the fact), do so in one of the many towns in Colorado that allow it this summer, such as Brighton, Broomfield, Dacono, Evans, Greeley, Lone Tree and Loveland[vi].
Kate Manzer is the Actively Green Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. To learn more about Business Sustainability, reach Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.