Firefighters concerned about escalating fire behavior, but up to now, it’s been the quietest season in at least 10 years
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Regional fire officials are at high level of preparedness as the late summer fire season heats up and firefighting resources in some local dispatch areas run short, according to a regional fire update issued Sept. 10.
At Preparedness Level 3, large fires may occur frequently and the potential for incident management team mobilization is regularly present. Fire behavior is escalating and of concern to multiple agencies and fire managers. Critically dry fuels combined with strong winds and low relative humidity create the potential for rapid fire growth, fire officials said.
The Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder is an exception to what has so far been a light fire season in the west. The National Interagency Fire Center has only reported one new large fire, in Wyoming.
Altogether, 77 fires, covering about 40,000 acres, are burning across the country.
For the year to date, the center is reporting 45, 306 fires that have burned across 2.65 million acres — the smallest acreage in at least 10 years. Last year, 5.47 million acres had burned in 66,000 fires during the season. In 2005 and 2006, the total was upward of 7.5 million acres. The 10-year average is about 5.7 million acres.
A two-week weather outlook for the Rocky Mountain region suggests there could be more fire weather on the way, with conditions forecast to be drier and warmer than average. The 60-day outlook is calling for near normal temperatures and moisture, which isn’t saying much, since September is one of the three driest months of the year.
Overall, normal wildfire activity is expected across the West the next three months, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, which released its September through December outlook recently. Seasonal fire danger will increase in Southern California as autumn offshore winds — the Santa Anas — kick in.
In our part of the Rockies, fire experts say La Niña conditions can increase the frequency of gusty winds along the Front Range and on the high plains. That could increase the fire risks during late summer and autumn in those areas.
Filed under: climate and weather, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | Colorado, Colorado wildfires 2010, Front Range, National Interagency Fire Center, Rocky Mountain wildfires, Summit County News, United States, wildfire, Wildfires