Fire season approaches; precautions advised

Fire season predictions for Northwest Colorado are "near average," according to fire experts.

But they warn that can change quickly.

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Early runoff in March had officials worried about fire danger, but cooler temperatures in recent weeks have slowed the melting in many areas.

Tim Mathewson, fire weather program manager for the Bureau of Land Management in the Rocky Mountains, said there are no major fire concerns at this time.

"We've had some precipitation in the last several weeks that made up for the dry and warm March," he said. "We're doing better than we were last year heading into June."

Mathewson said extreme Northwest Colorado has not received as much precipitation as other portions of the state, and people should always be careful when camping and lighting fires.

"The two ignition sources that concern us are humans and lightning," he said. "The short-term outlook is good, but we will re-evaluate conditions in early June."

BLM fire mitigation specialist Lynn Barclay said this is the time of year to prepare for the worst.

"People should go around their homes and prepare a defensive space," she said. "Move wood piles and leaves away from the home, and clear away brush."

Fire conditions will remain near normal until the weather patterns change, Barclay said.

The La Nina weather pattern usually affects Northwest Colorado when it pushes north each year, but Barclay warns that fire should always be a concern.

"Anytime you're outdoors camping and having fires, clear away last seasons grass and weeds from the area," she said. "If there is no fire ring, clear down to bare soil."

Barclay also suggests anyone conducting controlled burns in the county contact the Sheriff's Office prior to lighting the fire.

"It's good that people notify authorities when they see smoke." she said. "Ag and ditch burning can get away fast. Keep an eye on the weather and have a shovel and hose nearby to respond quickly."

Moffat and Rio Blanco counties average 200 to 250 fire starts each year, ranging from single trees to large fires.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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