Wet spell brings little fire relief for Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Wet spell brings little fire relief for Eagle County

Fire danger remains high, even with more rain in the forecast

An air tanker drops slurry on the perimeter of the Ptarmigan Fire on Tuesday. Despite recent rainfall, fire danger remains high in Eagle County.
Joe Staley/Courtesy photo

Fire danger in Eagle County was reduced to “high” this week, but no fire restrictions are in place at the moment.

In an email, Eagle River Fire Protection District Community Risk Manager Tracy LeClair wrote that grasses, shrubs and other fuels are at near-record low moisture levels. That would normally lead to imposing fire restrictions, but good rain Tuesday and Wednesday, with more precipitation in the forecast, has kept the danger down, at least a little.

Fire officials every week conduct a conference call to discuss fuel moisture, weather conditions and other fire factors.

Eagle County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Eric Lovgren said this week’s call “ran right up to” imposing fire restrictions.

Lovgren noted that fuel moisture — also known as the “energy release component” — isn’t the only factor involved in calling for fire restrictions. In addition to weather, there’s also the likelihood of human-caused fires, Lovgren said.

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This week’s rain so far has been of the “wetting” variety, which actually soaks into the soil and into plants, Lovegren said. Still, he added, “it doesn’t take long to dry out again.”

It takes just as long to re-moisturize fuels as it does to dry out, Lovgren said. “One rain cycle doesn’t reset everything,” he added.

Over in Summit County, low temperatures, high humidity and a little bit of rain helped to keep the Ptarmigan Fire burning northeast of Silverthorne calm overnight. The fire sparked Monday around 4:30 p.m. and remains at zero percent containment. The fire is estimated to be between 85-100 acres.

While Eagle County isn’t in fire restrictions now, that can change quickly. Lovgren noted that Eagle County imposes restrictions any time the National Weather Service issues a red-flag fire weather warning. Those warnings generally involve warm temperatures, strong winds and low relative humidity. Lovgren noted that those warnings have been sent out a couple of times recently

The best way to check on current conditions is to keep track of restrictions is via the the EC Emergency website. Lovgren added restrictions are posted in both English and Spanish.

When those restrictions are in place, restrictions are put on open outdoor fires, particularly campfires.

Under Stage 1 restrictions, you can have a campfire if you’re in an established campground, with established fire rings.

“But if you have your camper out on top of Crooked Creek Pass, that doesn’t count,” Lovgren said.

What’s a ‘1,000-hour’ fuel?

Wildfire specialists often refer to grasses and trees in terms of hours. There are 10-hour fuels, 100-hour fuels and 1,000-hour fuels.

Eagle County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Eric Lovgren said the term refers to much moisture long grasses or trees require to be less flammable. For instance, a 10-hour fuel requires 10 hours of steady precipitation to be fire resistant.

Now remember that we’ve been in some level of drought for much of the past 20 years.

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