Ouray Fire Chief Says He’ll Decide On Wednesday Morning
OURAY – Although wildfires continue to burn unchecked nearby, Ouray’s Fourth of July fireworks show is still on, for now.
Ouray Volunteer Fire Department Chief Trevor Latta told a concerned Ouray City Council on Monday, July 1, that he is monitoring conditions as well as weather forecasts on a daily basis and will make a final call regarding the fireworks show on the morning of Wednesday, July 3.
Currently, Ouray (along with most of the state) is under Stage One fire restrictions, which were officially enacted here by emergency ordinance at Monday’s meeting, but went into effect almost two weeks ago. More restrictive Stage Two fire restrictions have not gone into effect at this time.
Latta noted that at this time last year, the City of Ouray was already a week and a half into Stage Two restrictions, but that this year, “we are a lot better off than we were, moisture-wise.” This, in spite of the fact that total rainfall in Ouray for the month of June was merely one tenth of an inch, according to Ouray’s official weather observer, Karen Risch.
As a preventative measure to reduce fire hazard associated with Ouray’s annual patriotic pyrotechnics display, members of the OVFD have been soaking the hill on the south end of town where the fireworks are set off (in an area commonly referred to as “The Gap”).
“As of right now we are moving forward, but that could change any day,” Latta told council. “I’m here to listen to your concerns or opinions.”
All four council members present at the meeting [Councilor Gary Hansen was absent] were united in their opinion that the fireworks show should be cancelled again this year, as it was last year.
“Today I have had 10 citizen’s communications from people urging me to ban the fireworks,” Councilman John Ferguson said. “I feel strongly that it is not prudent.” Ferguson pointed to the recent smoky skies over Ouray stemming from the nearby East Fork Fire and West Fork Fire Complex, and the tragic news on Monday morning, July 1 regarding the death of 19 Hot Shot firefighters battling a fierce blaze near Prescott, Ariz., coupled with the rising prevalence this year of standing dead trees in the forests surrounding Ouray due to beetle kill, as strong reasons to cancel this year’s fireworks show.
“The dead trees are fodder for fire,” Ferguson worried. “I would like to urge consideration not have fireworks, this year. It frankly does not seem prudent to me.”
Mayor Bob Risch and Councilors Michael Underwood and Richard Kersen all agreed that the show should be cancelled.
“So much of the state is on fire, we should celebrate the fact that we are not burning [in Ouray],” Underwood said.
However, no action was taken on the matter.
“Ultimately, between [Ouray County Sheriff] Junior Mattivi and I, it is our decision, valuing and taking everyone’s input,” Latta said.
In spite of the dry conditions which pervade the entire region, Telluride and Lake City are so far the only nearby municipalities which have canceled their Fourth of July fireworks shows. Delta, Montrose and Gunnison are still moving forward with plans for a show, Latta said, while Silverton “is in the same boat as Ouray, monitoring conditions on a day-to-day basis.”
STAGE 1 FIRE RESTRICTIONS OFFICIALLY ENACTED
At Monday’s meeting, council unanimously enacted Resolution No. 7, 2013 – Approving Declaration No. 1 – A Declaration of a Local Disaster Emergency, and thereby officially enacting Stage One fire restrictions within the City of Ouray, as declared by Mayor Risch at the last regular council meeting on Tuesday, June 24.
The declaration of emergency status was necessary in order to pass the resolution without the usual requirements for public notice.
The fire ban applies to the use, sale or possession of fireworks for personal use, all campfires outside of designated campgrounds, open burning of any kind, and welding in unreasonable areas. Additionally, chain saw operators must use a spark arrester, and have a shovel and extinguisher nearby. The ban does not affect the City of Ouray’s fireworks show. Campfires in designated campgrounds are still permitted under the ban, as are charcoal and gas barbecue grills.
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