The Differences Between the Stages of Colorado Fire Restrictions

Photo Credit: MrPants.

When things get dry in Colorado, fire restrictions start popping up all over the place. The restrictions are categorized by “stage” depending on severity, but often, the description of what the ban entails ends there. To make the various types of bans easier to understand, we’ve complied the description of what each “stage” means. Keep in mind that these rules may change or vary from place to place. Use this piece for guidance, but always check with local authorities for official policies.

*Note: We’ve summarized the descriptions of the bans to make them more consumable. For a full description, view the various aspects of the different bans in this official document. Here’s another official document that shows even more restrictive policies with each stage. This shows why it’s important to know the specific guidelines at your specific location. Don’t stick to this list of restrictions as your only source. Know the rules specific to the county or city you’re in.

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RELATED: [INTERACTIVE MAP] Current Wildfires in Colorado

Stage 1

According to a document published in collaboration with the USFS – White River National Forest offices, a “Stage 1” restriction is put in place when there’s an increasing risk of fire danger. These restrictions are often minor and aimed at preventing accidental wildfires started by human activity in an area – from things like smoking and camping.

The following acts are prohibited:

1. Building or using a fire outside of a developed campsite.

2. Smoking except while in an enclosed vehicle or building, in a developed campsite, or while stopped in an outdoor space free of debris.

3. Operating any internal or external combustion engine without a functioning spark-arresting device.

RELATED: [INTERACTIVE MAP] Current Wildfires in Colorado

Stage 2

If restriction move to “Stage 2,” policies put in place by “Stage 1” restrictions are intensified. This limits particular outdoor recreation activities even further – most commonly affecting camping.

The following acts are prohibited:

1. Building or using a fire.

2. Smoking anywhere except in an enclosed vehicle or building.

3. Possessing or using any kind of pyrotechnic device (including all fireworks).

4. Use of any explosive.

5. Use of equipment powered by an internal combustion engine between 1PM and 1AM (including chainsaws).

6. Operating any internal or external combustion engine without a functioning spark-arresting device.

7. Using any sort of torch with an open flame (includes welding).

8. Use of motor vehicle off of official roads with exception to parking in spots devoid of vegetation less than 10 feet from roadways and parking overnight at developed campgrounds and trailheads.

RELATED: [INTERACTIVE MAP] Current Wildfires in Colorado

Stage 3

When restrictions bump up to “Stage 3,” areas are closed down due to extreme risk. At this point, using less-invasive restrictions seen with lower level stages are no longer a viable means of fire prevention.

The following acts are prohibited:

1. Entering the area under restriction with exception to persons with specific written permit for fire entry, people performing official firefighting related duties, and at times, owners and lessees of land.

2. Seriously, follow the rule above. Entering an area under “Stage 3” restrictions can pose extreme danger to you, but also to the people involved with firefighting.

While breaking the rules set up in these restrictions can result in criminal charges (fines and imprisonment), they’re also important for you to follow in order to prevent wildfires. Preventing wildfires is a team effort by everyone that steps foot on at-risk terrain.

RELATED: [INTERACTIVE MAP] Current Wildfires in Colorado

This video shows six tips for prevent wildfires:



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