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Colorado: Fire peril lurks in balmy days ahead

Howard Pankratz
Denver Post

Denver broke a 108-year-old temperature record Monday, and the records may keep falling all week.

The city registered a 74-degree high in midafternoon, breaking the record of 72 set in 1901.

Dry, warm weather funneled into the Front Range from the southwestern United States. A dome of high pressure has made Colorado more suitable for baseball spring training than skiing.

But while the warm air may feel like an early spring, it comes with gusty winds and “very high to extreme fire danger” today, not only in the foothills west of Denver but on the Eastern Plains, according to the National Weather Service.

The “red-flag warning” will be in effect from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and includes the metro area, Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Deer Trail, Castle Rock, Limon, Colorado Springs, Canon City, Pueblo and Ordway.

A fire broke out early Monday afternoon along Interstate 25 near the north entrance of the Air Force Academy, north of Colorado Springs. Firefighters from the academy, Monument and Black Forest responded and quickly extinguished the blaze.

The temperature today in Denver is predicted to be 74, said Byron Louis, manager of the National Weather Service’s forecast center in Boulder. The record for March 3 is 76, set in 1921. The high Wednesday in Denver is expected to be 75, which would top the record of 74 set in 1872.

The high Thursday in Denver is forecast to be 72, which is below the record of 76 set in 1910.

The Weather Service already has noted that February 2009 was the least-snowy February in Denver history, and there is no chance of any precipitation in the forecast until Saturday.

Last week, forecasters gave their three-month outlook, which included dry and warm weather for this week. They expect the weather to be warmer and drier than normal during the next three months.

It is already abnormally dry in eastern Colorado.

Chuck Hanagan, executive director of the Otero-Crowley Farm Service Agency, a branch of the U.S. Agriculture Department, said ranchers and farmers in southeastern Colorado described their land as “dry, dry, dry.”

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or hpankratz@denverpost.com


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