Drought weather combined with overgrown forests full of tinder-dry beetle kill conifers create another high wildfire season in Colorado. Already, thousands of acres have burned or are burning. The situation is scary dangerous. As a result, Gunnison County (where WildSnow Field HQ is located), issued a fire ban effective June 24.
Excerpt from Garfield County Board of County Commissioners, Resolution 2013-13
Stage One fire restrictions for all of unincorporated Gunnision County until further notice:
1. Open fires, including agricultural burning, wood or charcoal fires, and the burning of trash or debris.
2. Campfire outside of designated campgrounds. Exception: campfires permitted in designated campgrounds and recreation areas in permanent constructed fire grates.
3. Use of fireworks or explosives.
4. Smoking outdoors, unless in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren and has been cleared of all flammable material.
5. The following activities are permitted: cooking on manufactured charcoal, liquid fuel and propane grills; campfires with flame length not exceeding two feet in height in pre-fabricated concrete/metal fire enclosures in established campgrounds (USFS, NPS and privately owned); prefabricated concrete/metal fire enclosures on private property
6. Rotary club of Gunnision, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte professional fireworks displays allowed.
While super important and necessary for public safety, the resolution bans fires regardless of elevation. Therefore, even if you’re near treeline, on a rocky scree pile which is common in Colorado’s backcountry, you can’t build a nice little campfire. Likewise, this time of year the WildSnow Field HQ environment (8,800 feet in a lush green aspen forest, in the middle of a clearing) is not a fire hazard worthy of an outright ban, though it could be later after a hot dry summer.
So we came up with a way to create a law abiding steel fire enclosure that’s appropriate for our high altitude early-summer environment without blowing our budget on an expensive patio unit from the local garden shop.
The solution: culvert coupling ring. A heavy duty galvanized steel 48″ round ring is available for about $75 (or smaller 36″ for $50). Modification is of course an appealing part of the process. The enclosure is two feet high, so it needs ventilation holes. Lou considered kneeling and paying homage to his electric drill. But his redneck gene began throbbing and out came the .357 Mag. Always nice to take the opportunity to do some target shooting. In the future, if officials tell us we need some sort of grate cover we can easily pre-fabricate. But in our situation, at our elevation in a large green clearing, we’re confident our 24 inch high steel enclosure is plenty safe so long as the enclosed fire sticks to the 24″ flame limit in the ban.
We’ll of course continue to be careful with fire, keeping them small and further modifying our enclosure if officials tell us to. More, when things do get dry and scary at our location, we’ll be smart and stop enjoying campfires till conditions are less touchy. It’s just too dangerous to do otherwise. (Also, as anyone should do when enjoying a campfire, we always have water, shovel, and a fire extinguisher at hand.)