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Rain keeps fires low

Western county drying out, danger levels rising

Collin Smith

— For the first time she can remember, Lynn Barclay spent the Fourth of July at a family barbecue instead of being called to service to fight a wildland fire somewhere in the West.

Recent weather patterns have dampened Moffat County’s typical fire season, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing to Barclay, mitigation/education specialist and fire public information officer for the BLM, and a member of the Northwest Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit.

In Moffat County and across the West, this year’s consistent rainfall has kept fires to a minimum.

“We’re pretty far below a typical fire season across the West,” Barclay said. “Overall, we are significantly below where we are typically at this time of year.”

According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, the trend may continue deep into the fall, with above-average precipitation forecast through November in Northwest Colorado.

Megan Schwitzer, a meteorologist intern with the Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said the rain is from the standard, every-year wind patterns that bring moisture from the south.

The exception this year is that those wind patterns developed far earlier than usual, so rain came to Moffat County before it was expected.

Barclay strongly cautioned residents against thinking there wouldn’t be any fire danger this summer, however.

“Grasses are starting to cure, and that makes them more susceptible to ignition sources, whether it’s a lightning strike or man made,” she said. “Once the vegetation dries out, it needs precipitation that’s significant to stop fire danger.”

Lower-lying areas, such as western Moffat County, also will dry faster and already are seeing the fire danger classifications increase to moderate and high.

“People should know, even with all this rain we’ve been having, if the grass is crunchy, and it’s windy, they may still not want to start that fire,” Barclay said.


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