Fire risk increases in autumn | VailDaily.com

Fire risk increases in autumn

J.K. Perry

Andreas Fuhrmann/AP Photo/Record SearchlightWildfires, such as this one burning this week in Northern California, can be more common in the fall when frosts kills off brush and grasses.

EAGLE COUNTY – Spring and summer rains kept area forest fires to a minimum this season but flames may be more common this fall as frost kills grasses and other brush, area fire officials said.”From all the spring rains we’re not seeing a lot of big or quick growth on the fires, but that’s probably going to change pretty soon,” said Eric Rebitzke of the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit, a division of the U.S. Forest Service.Fires are most often caused by lightning or campers being careless with campfires. Officials encourage campers to completely extinguish fires despite the lowered fire risk level currently in place.Matt Hunnell, who camps fairly often near the Piney and upper Colorado rivers, said during the dry season he’s cautious when lighting fires.

“I pay attention to how close the fire is to dry grass,” he said. “The easiest way to start a forest fire is a spark in dry grass .”Hunnell uses stone rings and extinguishes a fire with water, he said.Fall hunters can also add to the risk, said Chief Dave Vroman of the Gypsum Fire Protection District.The Forest Service and other agencies have put out about 10 fires over the past two weeks in Eagle and Summit counties, Rebitzke said.”We’ve been staying fairly busy the last few weeks,” he said.

Most of the incidents were single-tree ignited by lightning, he said.On Sunday, Gypsum firefighters extinguished two lightning-sparked tree fires in the Dry Lake area, Vroman said. Firefighters hiked to the site and dug a circle around the trees, cut them down and placed burnt portions within the circle. The process took six hours and included monitoring for additional flames. This year, overall, has not been much of a fire season, Vroman said.”It’s kind of pleasurable compared to the last 10 years of drought,” he said, adding the fall fire season should be relatively normal compared to years past.

Fire threats significantly decrease after the first snow. Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or jkperry@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado