Weather specialist added to 416 wildfire crew as lightning, Tropical Storm Bud loom |

Weather specialist added to 416 wildfire crew as lightning, Tropical Storm Bud loom

A meteorologist equipped with sophisticated atmospheric gear to gauge the potential danger of expected lightning strikes

Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
photo -The 416 fire ian Hermosa, Colorado
DURANGO, CO - JUNE 14: Megan Emerson, right, and other members of the Montana Bitterroot Hotshots, use hand tools to put in a shaded fuel break and cut a hand line around a home along County Road 205 to protect it from the 416 Fire on June 14, 2018. The fire is estimated at about 32,000 acres with only 15% containment. Predicted thunderstorms were expected to potentially bring in strong outflow winds and increase the potential for extreme fire behavior today. The fire, burning 23 miles northwest of Durango, started June 1st.
Helen H. Richardson | The Denver Post

As the 416 fire grows more mammoth in the San Juan National Forest 13 miles north of Durango, firefighters brought in a meteorologist equipped with sophisticated atmospheric gear and a weather balloon to gauge the potential danger of expected lightning strikes.

The wildfire has now consumed 32,076 acres since June 1, and hot, dry weather conditions have been anything but kind to the 1,137 firefighters tasked to the wildfire. Fire commanders worried conditions could get much worse Thursday with Tropical Storm Bud making landfall and heading in their direction. Although heavy rains could quench the flames, lightning strikes could multiply problems. On Thursday, they experienced isolated thunderstorms with light rains and lightning strikes.

A red flag warning is in place Friday for the fire area from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“It’s all part of the puzzle here,” Incident Meteorologist Jeff Colton remarked in a video about his firefighting role.

He sent up a weather balloon carrying equipment as high as 40,000 feet in the sky to help them calculate relative humidity and measure barometric pressure and wind speed. Following a 90-minute balloon flight, Colton, who works for the National Weather Service, sent information to the agency’s Washington D.C. office to crunch numbers on a supercomputer, he said.

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