EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The unofficial start of summer is this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, and it’s also the kickoff to camping season in Colorado. Many of those campers will have to keep warm without a campfire.
The Bureau of Land Management enacted a ban on Thursday because of extreme fire danger. The fire danger ranges from high to extreme across most of Western and Southern Colorado.
There are exceptions to the ban; campers pitching a tent in developed campsites with a metal ringed fire pit can have a campfire. But for hundreds of thousands of acres of other popular camping, fires are prohibited.
“This year, earlier than ever, before Memorial Day, that’s unheard of but it’s that dry out,” said Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd.
The BLM has been surveying the wild land vegetation and said that this year it’s just too dangerous to allow open burning.
“So no stone fire rings, not fire pans, none of that stuff,” said Boyd.
Just a few days ago on BLM land at a popular makeshift firing range near Silt, the brush caught fire very easily.
“That was actually started with people shooting with regular bullets,” said Boyd. “And just a spark from a ricochet hit it started, so it’s just that dry.”
Nearly two million acres of public land on the Western Slope is included in the ban which may not end anytime soon.
“It’s very likely we’ll be in fire restrictions for the length of the summer,” said Boyd.
Those breaking the fire ban face up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
BLM officials said they’re not trying to dissuade people from camping in the High Country but do recommend campers become familiar with the conditions and regulations in place before pitching a tent.