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June 20, 2013
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Grand County fire season outlook ranks ‘normal;’ conditions could worsen

GRAND COUNTY—Even with nearly a dozen wildland fires currently burning across the state and three wildland fires taking place locally, the National Interagnecy Fire Center out of Boise, Idaho, still ranks the wildfire outlook for the summer months at normal for central and northern Colorado. The report also state the drought in the state is expected to persist with some improvement for the northwest portion of the state.

A normal fire year does not mean there won’t be fires in the state, according to the report. Similarly, just because there currently is no fire restriction in place in Grand County does not mean people should be lackadaisical about fire safety, said Reid Armstrong, public affairs specialist for the Sulphur Ranger District.

Grand County has not implemented any fire restrictions yet, though they are expected to start to weigh all of the factors affecting that decision and will be deciding whether to implement fire restrictions in coming weeks, according to Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.

Fire restrictions aren’t put in place because people are nervous or because a fire is burning, according to Armstrong. Factors such as the amount of fuels in the area, the water content of those fuels and the soil and weather patterns are factors that affect the decision to implement fire restrictions.

“Just because we are not meeting those criteria to put restrictions in place doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be vigilant,” Armstrong said.

One of the biggest factors that affects the decision to put fire restrictions in place is the weather, and forecasters are predicting a drier than normal summer with lower than normal precipitation, according to Nezzette Rydell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boulder.

The three-month prediction won’t necessarily make the wildfire conditions worse, according to Rydell, however they will not help to improve the wildfire danger. Without a prolonged period of precipitation, the persistent drought conditions in Colorado will not improve either, she said.

Thursday there was a red flag warning for the majority of the state including Grand County. The red flag warning is expected to stay in place over the weekend. A red flag warning means the weather consists of high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds — conditions that increase the risk and possibility that wildfire could start and spread quickly.

“If the weather continues to be hot and dry the wildfire conditions are going to get worse,” Armstrong said.

The three local fires include a wildland fire that recently took place behind the Fraser Library, which was quickly extinguished by local fire departments and members of the Forest Service, and the Big Meadows Fire that has scorched 604 acres on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park since the fire started Monday, June 10. The Big Meadows Fire is considered to be 95 percent contained, as of Thursday, June 20, and is expected to smolder through to the end of summer.

A third fire started from lightning by Keyser Ridge on Monday, June 17, and burned one-tenth of an acre before being out thanks to nearby air resources.

Currently, the conditions in the area are not severe enough to warrant any fire restrictions, Johnson said in an email Monday morning, June 17.

Armstong reminds the public to be vigilant with campfires, grills, stoves, cigarettes, and any other fire producing mechanism and to make sure these are “dead out” and not left unattended.

You can check local fire restrictions at co.grand.co.us or you can check the current local fire danger for the Sulphur Ranger District at http://gacc.nifc.gov/rmcc/dispatch_centers/r2ftc/. Currently the wildfire danger is ranked on the high side of moderate for the mountainous area.

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Jun 25, 2013 08:45AM Published Jun 25, 2013 08:44AM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.