With cold temperatures approaching toward the end of the week, Colorado Springs residents may notice more recreational fires burning outside around town. Local officials expect the increase to be the result of the homeless looking to stay warm through the cold snap.
Officials are asking for the public’s vigilance: If a recreational fire, which is legal under the proper conditions, is under control, don’t panic. But the Colorado Springs Fire Department wants people to be aware such fires may become hazardous if they get out of control, become too big or are started on private land.
Recreational fires are allowed within Colorado Springs city limits if they meet the following criteria:
• The fire must be within a rock ring or a prefabricated fire ring.
• The fire cannot exceed 36 inches in diameter.
• Flame heights cannot exceed 2 feet.
• Water, sand or dirt must be near the fire in case it needs to be extinguished promptly.
• The fire must be attended to at all times.
• The fire must be 25 feet from anything that could catch on fire.
• Clean fuel such as wood or charcoal is required. No burning of debris or trash is allowed.
If members of the fire department are called out and the fire is not within the guidelines, the fire will be put out. City spokesman Howard Black was not available for comment on any legal action that would be taken.
Fire Department spokesman Brian Vaughan said the code has been in place for the past six years.
“Our city in 2011 adopted the 2009 national fire code … so people can have fun outside burning,” Vaughan said. “They have the right under that code to start that fire. … If it’s outside those parameters we’ll put the fire out and educate them.”
But some in Colorado Springs don’t believe allowing such fires is a policy that promotes safety.
“We can’t make sure that their fires don’t get out of control,” said Allen Owen, a Colorado Springs resident who said he witnessed an out-of-control fire just three blocks from his home in the past year. “There’s fires all the time. We used to call. Now we’ve been told don’t be bothered to call, and that’s what everyone’s in an uproar about.”
Vaughan said the code helps the homeless make the best of the upcoming cold weather.
“All we’re doing is letting people know that we’re well aware that these fires are happening around the city,” Vaughan said.
Recreational fires are not allowed in Denver. Denver Fire Department spokesman Cpt. Greg Pixley recommended the homeless take shelter during the cold.
“In the city and county of Denver, they just opened two additional homeless shelters to address the needs for people who might be struggling in the cold weather,” Pixley said. “Anyone in that circumstance should seek out assistance.”
He said open fires also raise certain dangers.
“It’s been extremely dry,” Pixley said. “We haven’t had a lot of moisture. Plants and trees are more dry than they would be this time of year, compared to last year. When we have dry conditions, there’s always the possibility we could have something similar to California.”
Recreational fires are allowed in Boulder County but not within city limits.