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Dry conditions prompt burning bans in county, Colorado Springs

March 17, 2017 Updated: March 17, 2017 at 2:44 pm
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Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Warm weather and drought conditions have prompted burning restrictions in El Paso County and put local firefighters on high alert for even small blazes.

Authorities have been taking extra fire precaution in recent weeks following a stretch of high-fire danger days. Temperatures have pushed record highs with little humidity and gusty winds, which dries out grasses and creates fuels for even the tiniest spark. Friday morning, for example, firefighters put out a small fire at a homeless camp near downtown Colorado Springs. It was one of several small fires in recent weeks, said Capt. Steve Wilch of the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

The conditions prompted the sheriff's office to issue the Stage 1 burn restriction starting Thursday amid a red-flag warning, and continuing "until such time as the restrictions are modified," the office said in a news release.

The restrictions prohibit:

- Open burning except in permanent structures in developed campgrounds and picnic grounds or in private residences in areas cleared of all flammable materials

- The sale or use of fireworks

- Outdoor smoking except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in an area 3 feet in diameter that is clear of all flammable material

Colorado Springs was also placed under burn restrictions on Friday. Within city limits, no recreational fires, bonfires or smoking in city parks and open spaces is permitted. Blasting, welding, torches and model rockets are permitted with permit only.

Failure to comply with the ban, resulting in property being threatened or damaged, will be considered fourth degree arson, the city said.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo also has issued a fire weather watch for the county on Sunday when temperatures are expected to reach about 80 degrees.

"Conditions will be favorable for the rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires," the service said.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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