County may update fire ban ordinance


ALAMOSA — Winter and spring have been dry and it's likely to stay dry. That's why Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson, Alamosa County Fire Department Chief Don Chapman and the Alamosa County Commissioners held a work session on Wednesday with Great Sand Dunes National Park Chief Ranger Dale Culver and Chad Lewis with the U.S. Forest Service to discuss updating the county's fire ban ordinance.

"This is the perfect time for us to talk about this and get ahead of it and be ready for it if in fact the weather forecast holds for the rest of the summer," said Jackson.

Based on rules and regulations used by Pueblo County, the updated resolution would allow either the sheriff or commissioners to enact fire restrictions whenever necessary, forgoing the usual scheduled meeting beforehand. The restrictions would be on a scale from one to three. Stage 1 is the least restrictive and Stage 3, which bans smoking cigarettes outdoors, is the most restrictive.

Additionally, the county would automatically ban open burning any time the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning.

Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis mentioned that restrictions could hurt tourism, however, Chapman said that it's a necessary precaution.

"I know that some weekend campers may decide to not go if they can't sit by a campfire," Chapman said. "On the other side of it, that's something that has to be considered if the conditions get that bad. It's unfortunate that we'll all have to give up a little bit but it beats burning the forest down."

Alamosa County Public Health Director Della Cox-Vieira, who observed the discussion but wasn't a formal participant, recommended that the commissioners pass the ordinance for those who have smoke sensitivities.

"If we can be agile in our own fire bans and control," she said, "that will certainly help those folks that are vulnerable in the community to air quality issues."

The county will perform a first reading of the resolution, and likely adopt it, at their next meeting on April 11. The group is also planning on discussing the situation with the other five counties during April 23's San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association meeting to make Valley-wide bans as uniform as possible.