Pueblo’s fire chiefs warn against lighting fireworks amid dangerous conditions

Posted at 8:43 PM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 22:43:37-04

Fire chiefs from across Pueblo County are urging the public to not light fireworks this year and to follow the posted fire restrictions. They say weather conditions are just too dangerous. Case in point, the Stonemoor Fire Friday afternoon which quickly burned more than 100 acres.

"The cause and manner of that fire is still under investigation, but I think we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on," Sheriff Kirk Taylor told reporters Monday. "That (information) will be forthcoming."

Pueblo West Metro Fire Chief Brian Caserta said the Stonemoor Fire was eye-opening because such similar conditions exist throughout his community. 

"(It) definitely put a very strong emphasis on the fact that even small vegetation and fuels will burn very quickly and very rapidly on firefighters," Caserta said. "The potential for a wildfire threat that can consume homes in a very quick manner is a very real situation for us."

The chief canceled the community’s upcoming Independence Day fireworks display to limit the fire danger.

Pueblo County is under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions which prevent just about any type of open flame.  Campfires, outdoor welding, and agricultural burns are all prohibited. So too are backyard fire pits, tiki torches, and charcoal grills. Propane grilling is still permitted.

But It’s fireworks, which are also banned, that give these first responders the most concern.

"It’s always a big problem for us, every year even on a wet year, we have several structure fires as a result of the use of those fireworks," said Shawn Shelton, Chief of the Pueblo Fire Department. "This year is just going to be so much more dangerous."

Additional police officers and sheriff’s deputies will on duty Wednesday to enforce the fireworks ban. Violators will be ticketed and can face fines of anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

"One spark can turn into a multi-agency, multi-acre fire," said Jack Martin, Chief of the Pueblo Rural Fire Protection District.

One Pueblo County man learned the hard way how serious law enforcement is taking these fire restrictions. Christopher Forell, 23, spent the night in jail Sunday for accidentally starting a small brush fire near Rye while he was welding outside.

"It was caused by one little spark, we had some winds, we have different winds that come off the mountains. It went from a 20 square foot fire to a 15-acre fire in a matter of minutes," explained Rye Fire Chief Steven Bennett.

There were no injuries, nor were there any structures were lost in that fire. Crews responded quickly and kept the burn area relatively small. Forell is charged a misdemeanor for starting the fire.

The annual Rollin’ on the Riverwalk concert and fireworks display will be held as scheduled.