Fire Safety on a Back-Country Powersports Ride
Right now, Southwest Colorado is experiencing an Exceptional Drought. All of the counties in our region have imposed heightened fire safety restrictions due to the severe risk of wildfire. We have seen this risk turn to major wildfires with the ongoing 416 fire outside Durango and the Burro fire outside Dolores. For the first time ever, the San Juan National Forest was closed due to the unprecedented fire risk. Luckily, we received a very needed rain over the last weekend and the forest has been reopened to the public, with the exception of areas affected by the 416 and Burro fires.
Thank You Firefighters
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the firefighters working to put out these dangerous wild fires. As a retired firefighter and the children of a fireman, we know first-hand the hard work that goes into fighting wildfires. We commend you for the care and effort you are putting in to save the homes of our friends and neighbors in the affected areas. Thank you for your service to our community!
Help Prevent Forest Fires
We’d also like to share some fire safety tips for our customers and friends who love exploring the back roads and National Forests on their ATVs, UTVs, and Motorcycles.
Know the Fire Restrictions
Before you go into the forest with your vehicle, make sure you are aware of the fire restrictions that are in place. Colorado.gov has a very helpful page for you to research the local fire restrictions for every county in Colorado. Always check before you ride.
The Forest Service shares its current fire restrictions for the San Juan National Forest online. Always check the fire restrictions before you go into the forest, and make sure you are careful with fire, even when no restrictions are in place.
Right now, Stage 3 restrictions are in place. We can all agree that preventing wildfires is a great motivation to follow the fire safety restrictions. If that isn’t enough incentive, be aware that violating the fire ban can come with a big penalty. “Violating Stage 3 fire restrictions or going into a closed area carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, and is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of up to six months, or both.”
If you are in Montezuma County, Colorado, you can find notices on fire restrictions on the Montezuma County website. As of today, June 22, 2018, Montezuma County bans all open fires and the use of fireworks. For details on the current fire ban see the full Fire Ban Resolution.
When riding in La Plata County, Colorado, you can find fire restriction details at the La Plata County website. Right now, La Plata County is under Stage 3 Fire Restrictions. This is the highest level of fire ban, and it is important to know the rules you must follow. The details of the June 2018 fire restrictions can be viewed at this page of La Plata County’s site.
Fire Restrictions and Off Road Vehicles
Stage 3 (and Stage 2) restrictions have special rules in regard to ATVs and off road vehicles. Most importantly, your ATV must have a spark arresting device installed.
These fire restrictions prohibit, “Operating or using any internal combustion engine, including but not limited to chainsaws, generators and all-terrain vehicles, unless equipped with a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained, and an effective working order meeting either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1a or Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350 (a).”
Most ATVs do have a spark arresting device, but if you’ve removed yours or you aren’t sure, make sure your spark arrester is intact before you ride.
Finally, always stay on the marked trails. Ensure the trails you want to ride are approved for your ATV, motorcycle, and OHV. Sometimes fire restrictions alter the trails you can take on your motorized vehicle. Always double check. Whether there is a fire ban or not, be sure to keep hot engines away from flammable grass and brush. A little care and attention can help prevent a disastrous fire.
Fire conditions, bans, and restrictions are constantly changing with the weather. Make sure you check for updates in your county or National Forest before your next adventure.