Hewlett Fire, fire bans, and impact on camping

FINAL UPDATE:  Cooler temperatures, rain, and higher humidity has helped turn the corner on this fire as Hwy 14 has reopened and evacuations have been lifted.  The fire is 87% contained and no measurable growth is expected.  Ansel Watrous and Stove Prairie campgrounds are OPEN.

UPDATE:  Hwy 14 is now closed from the junction of Hwy 287 (Teds Place) to Stove Prairie Road (CO27).  This essentially closes the Ansel Watrous Campground and the only way to the campgrounds west of the fire is via Stove Prairie Road (CO27) from Masonville until it terminates at Hwy 14.

InciWeb Incident Information System website
Larimer County Emergency Information website
Twitter #HewlettFire search feed
Denver Weather Examiner fire and weather info

Obviously camping and campfires take a far back seat to possible life and property loss.  One of the unfortunate coincidences of the high camping season is also the high fire season, which we were reminded of locally with the Hewlett Fire burning in northern Colorado.  As of noon on May 17th, here is the latest fire map including the evacuation areas.


View Hewlett Fire Map in a larger map

In the upper right (in blue) is the evacuation area as the fire seems to be moving to the northeast, which is away from Poudre Canyon Hwy (Hwy 14) and the Poudre River (Cache La Poudre).  Not all campgrounds along Hwy 14 have opened yet, but of those that have opened there are no reports of them being closed.  The closest campground is Ansel Watrous, which is less than 2 miles west of the center of the fire.  Dutch George and Stove Prairie are another 2 miles west of Ansel Watrous.  Dutch George was supposed to open on May 11 but remains closed, Stove Prairie is listed as open.

Even if the Hewlett Fire continues it’s current trajectory, Poudre Canyon is narrow and there could be occasional closures of Hwy 14 which would affect a multitude of campgrounds from Poudre Park all the way to Walden, CO.  So plan accordingly.

As far as fire restrictions, there is one in effect through June 15th, although this is not a fire ban.  From Larimer County’s website:

Originally set to expire today, the Board of Larimer County Commissioners today extended fire restrictions on Open Fires, the Use of Fireworks, and Public Fireworks Displays through June 15, 2012 for the unincorporated areas of Larimer County. The restrictions were originally adopted on April 10, 2012 in conjunction with restrictions on the Roosevelt National Forest. Today’s extension was based on a recommendation from Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.

  • Contained open fires are not restricted at this time. Because ‘contained open fires’ are not restricted, these are ‘restrictions’, not a ‘ban.’

 ·         Today’s restrictions mean that no open fires are allowed, no open camp or cooking fires, only “contained’ open fires such as those in camp stoves and grills using gas or pressurized liquid or those in permanently constructed, stationary, metal or masonry fireplaces such as those fireplaces located in campgrounds and masonry or metal fire pits. 

 

–          Smoking in the open is not allowed under these restrictions.

–          It is okay to operate combustion engines with spark arresting devices, properly installed and in working order.

–          Citizens who live in unincorporated areas of Larimer County can operate a charcoal grill on a non-combustible surface at least ten feet in diameter at their private residence.

–          No fireworks or fireworks displays are allowed under these restrictions.

–          No agricultural burning is allowed under these restrictions.

–          No open campfires are allowed under these restrictions.

The Sheriff can exempt items from these restrictions based on his pre-approval and inspection.

Any person who knowingly violates the restrictions commits a class 2 petty offense and can be fined.   The County’s complete ‘fire ordinance’ is available at: http://www.larimer.org/policies/. Individual restrictions such as these spell out which items from the ordinance are allowed and not-allowed.

So, this means campfires in campgrounds are still allowed.  But in areas of “dispersed camping”, fires are not allowed.  Dispersed camping is in approved areas, but not designated campgrounds or camp sites.  These are usually found off of dirt/gravel county roads and have no services (water, electric, sewer, etc) and are also free.  More info as it comes in…

About Chris Rodriguez

A guy who likes to camp and hike.
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