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City clarifies policy - 'warming fires' allowed if illegal campers follow rules

Dec. 16, 2017
       A recent Westside Pioneer article (at this link) revealed discussions among city attorneys and the Police and Fire departments about permitting “warming fires” for homeless/transient camps, despite a city ordinance prohibiting public camping.
       This came on the heels of inconsistent information from city public safety officers this fall. High-ranking fire and police officials told the Pioneer that such fires were against the law, but citizen
A camping site is seen on the Gold Hill Mesa property off Fountain Creek south of Highway 24 this month, which puts it in violation of trespassing and illegal camping laws. But under the recently announced city policy, a campfire would be OK if it follows international fire code regulations.
Westside Pioneer photo
reports were coming in that public safety responders were sometimes allowing them.
       In a press release Friday, Dec. 15, the Fire Department clarified the city's position. “Warming fires” are permitted under the 2009 International Fire Code, in the section defining “recreational fires,” the release states.
       The full announcement reads as follows:
       “The Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) wants to reiterate guidelines for recreational fires outdoors and how the CSFD and Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) respond to the homeless camps throughout the city.
       “The CSFD wants the public to know that we are aware of the many warming fires currently being lit throughout the City of Colorado Springs, often by the homeless population. These fires are often classified as 'recreational.'
       “It is important for citizens to be able to recognize the difference between a controlled recreational fire and a hostile fire. While recreational fires are allowed in the City of Colorado Springs, there are specific guidelines which must be followed to lower the risk of a recreational fire becoming hostile, requiring CSFD and CSPD involvement. As citizens of the City see fires along the creeks or open spaces within City limits, please note that these fires are not always hostile in nature and may not require a 911 response from the CSFD or CSPD. However, if the fire appears to be hostile and/or aggressively burning, encroaching into tents or surrounding trees/areas, we urge citizens to activate the 911 system.
       “The CSFD continues to urge the public to take precautions during this dry period, and exercise caution during a significant fire season for the western United States. In an effort to ensure the citizens of Colorado Springs are appropriately informed regarding fire safety, please note that it is appropriate to call 911 if any of the following fire conditions exist:
       “- A fire larger than 3 feet in diameter.
       “- A fire greater than 2 feet in flame length.
       “- A fire within 25 feet of a structure.
       “- An unattended fire.
       “- A hostile fire moving through trees, shrubs or tents.
       “The Colorado Springs Police Department has a proactive approach to the large volume of homeless warming fires through their Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). The HOT has been in service since 2009 and continues to educate the many homeless in our community regarding the use of warming fires. They patrol the homeless camps to look for unattended recreational fires and coordinate with fire crews as to the whereabouts of known camps and complexity of working with the homeless population.
       “The Colorado Springs Fire Department also wants to remind all citizens of the rules and regulations pertaining to any type of outside burning. The following website contains exact guidelines and code:

Westside Pioneer/press release
(Community: Public Safety)

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