Montrose, CO—Today, Montrose County Public Health released a public health order that temporarily bans burning in the unincorporated areas of the county. The order takes effect Sunday, April 12, at 12:01 a.m. All outdoor burning, other than the non-commercial cooking of food in enclosed devices is banned until April 30. After discussion with Montrose Fire Protection District and Montrose Memorial Hospital, county public health officials determined this was necessary for both medical reasons and concerns for resources needed for response.

“This is the smart thing to do, the safe thing to do, and the right thing to do,” said Montrose Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. David Dreitlein, M.D. “Respiratory symptoms can be caused and worsened by the presence of smoke in the atmosphere. These symptoms can include shortness of breath, nasal congestion, sneezing and cough, and sore throat—this can mimic symptoms of COVID-19. Also, the presence of added smoke can cause an asymptomatic carrier to start sneezing and coughing, which promotes viral spread.”

At this time, testing resources are limited to patients who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (with a doctor’s order). The presence of increased smoke could have a negative impact on testing resources as well as recovery for positive COVID-19 patients.

“This was not a decision to be taken lightly. We understand that agriculture burning is part of the culture and necessity of access to water in Montrose County,” said Commissioner Keith Caddy. “The water has been in the canals since the beginning of April, and we asked public health to delay this order to give our producers time to continue with spring preparations. We have come to a point where this order is critical to the public health of our community and the Board of County Commissioners is supportive of this action to protect the health and well-being of Montrose County residents during this pandemic.”

The public health order, signed by Public Health Director Jim Austin, cites emergency declarations from the federal, state, and local level to show the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order permits non-commercial cooking of food in enclosed devices such as metal fire pits and backyard barbecue grills.

“I am supportive of this order,” said Montrose Fire Protection District Chief Tad Rowan. “While there is limited risk of wildfire due to current conditions, the fact of the matter remains that we are in a pandemic; a large response will put an unnecessary burden on fire and medical resources. This order improves the district’s ability to keep resources available for responses to medical emergencies and other emergencies that occur in our jurisdiction.”

This order only applies to land in the unincorporated area of Montrose County and does not include federally managed public lands. Please know before you go as some public land agencies have enacted fire restrictions. Visit westslopefireinfo.com for more information regarding fire restrictions. To view the public health order, please visit montrosecountyjic.com.

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