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Las Animas County upholds stage one fire ban

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — On Tuesday, with a 3-0 vote, the Las Animas County Commissioners upheld a Stage One fire ban for the county. The issue sparking the continuance of the ban is the Apogaea Festival set for June.

The festival is seeking to relocate to the town of Valdez, west of Trinidad on Hwy 12. It was held in Bailey, CO, from 2011-2014, and prior to 2011 was staged on private land near Woodland Park. Some residents in Valdez are concerned about the event because the use of fire is an integral part of the event, and the county is experiencing dry conditions.

The organizers of the event have requested they be allowed to construct a 100 yard perimeter around the burn area. They will also have to produce a burn plan before a permit can be issued.

Another issue is access to the event area. There are three roads in and out, with one road accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle only. Even though the county’s fire marshal, Sheriff James Casias, indicated he would be happy with rain, a heavy rain could cause problems with traffic, especially if a medical problem arose requiring emergency vehicles.

In an unusual move, the commissioners voted 2-1, with commissioner Mack Louden voting no, on a letter of support and funding for the Southwest Chief Route Tiger 8 grant application. Funding for the grant from Las Animas County is $12,500, which the county has funded for the past three years. The funding is part of the match required to move the grant forward and is provided by Colfax County, Las Animas County, and Pueblo County. So far $60 million has been funded, leaving $38 million to complete the project of track repair and installation of safety equipment.

A train derailment Monday morning occurred west of Dodge City, Kansas, of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, and critically injured two people, highlighting the work still needing to be done. Even though the cause of the accident is still under investigation, one witness is said to have noticed a “significant bend” in the track just before the derailment.

Louden stated his reason for the “no” vote. “If we spend the funds now, later in the year we may find that we need them for something else.” The funds will come from the commissioners’ account of the general fund. The account holds $30,000 with $5,000 already earmarked, leaving $25,000 in balance. The $12,500 will reduce the balance by half.