Several local fire agencies enacted burn restrictions Monday in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and unincorporated El Paso County.
July rains nourished grasses and weeds that an arid August left tinder-dry, prompting the policy shift that puts and end to some summer campfires and other activities. A recent spike in grass fires has also made the Colorado Springs Fire Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Manitou Springs Fire Department fear conditions now allow flames to easily spread.
Colorado Springs is 0.53 inches behind in precipitation for the month of September and the city lagged by 2.76 inches of rain in August, according to National Weather Service records.
"We had a fairly wet spring...but now we’re moving into fall with unseasonably hot temperatures with very little moisture," Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey said.
And if a major wildfire broke out in the Pikes Peak region, help might be hard to find. Fires burning in California and the northwest occupy much of the national resources available to help with fire response, Lacey said.
In addition to blazes elsewhere burning through firefighting resources, the COVID-19 pandemic has put some first-responders on the sick list.
The Colorado Springs ban prohibits fires in "undeveloped wildland areas." That means, no recreational fires, bonfires, smoking in city parks or use of internal combustion engines without a spark arrestor.
Colorado Springs smokers can head to designated areas while permits are available from the fire agency for activities including launching model rockets, welding and commercial activities involving flames.
Barbecue is still on the menu in Colorado Springs, where outdoor fireplaces and cooking devices with wood, pellets, charcoal, propane, fuel or natural gas are allowed within "developed areas" 15 feet away from vegetation and structures and within reach of a fire extinguisher.
Penalties can be stiff for breaking the Colorado Springs ban, including a $2,500 fine and six months behind bars.
El Paso County and Manitou Springs limited fires and campfires to those with permanent grates in developed areas or private residences, the agencies said.
Smoking is also limited to indoor buildings vehicles and developed recreation sits in El Paso County. In Manitou, smoking is limited to indoor buildings and along Manitou Avenue.
"Discarding of a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco products is strictly prohibited," Manitou Springs warned.