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Fire danger heading toward extreme

Cliff Thompson
This photo was taken from the Colorado River pedestrian bridge, looking west toward Red Mountain. Brad Janssen photo.
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With just one rain storm in June following a wet spring, wildland fire danger has increased significantly in the western end and at lower elevations of the county.

“The last few days with hot temperatures and single-digit relative humidity has spiked fire danger to “extreme,” in the western end of the county, said Assistant Interagency Fire Officer Eric Rebitzke.

The fire danger moderates at higher elevations, where it remains greener and wetter and increases at lower, he said.



The wet spring allowed grasses and shrubs to grow quickly. They’re now drying and could provide fuel for a fire.

“The wind started drying things out, and the low relative humidity continues to aggravate the situation,” said Rebitzke.



That’s always a concern for fire watchers during the July Fourth holiday when private pyrotechnic activities can spark a fire. Fireworks are prohibited on lands managed by the Forest Service and a Bureau of Land Management.

The holiday weekend also brings thousand of campers and hikers to the mountains, increasing the chances for a fire.

“We know there’s going to be a lot of holiday recreationalists,” he said. “We just want them to be careful with fire.”



Several small wildfires in the western part of the county, ignited by lightning early in June, were snuffed by firefighters.

Rebitizke said the 100-hour fuels near Gypsum – those that take 100 hours to adjust to the ambient humidity, such as branches and small tree trunks – have relative humidity at the 5 percent level.

“That’s drier than the lumber you buy at the lumber yard,” Rebitzke said.

Just over a year ago, when fire conditions were similar, the 12,300-acre Coal Seam Fire was ignited by wind-whipped sparks from an underground coal seam near Glenwood Springs. The resulting wildfire destroyed nearly two dozen homes in Glenwood Springs and burned in the nearby Flat Tops until the winter snows extinguished it. Another 40-acre blaze that same day was ignited by a smoldering lightning strike just north of the Eagle County landfill north of Wolcott.

The weather forecast calls for continued warm and dry conditions.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com


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