#Wildfire season heating up in #Colorado earlier than last year, soils close to record-dry levels — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

Photo credit: Sylvan Fire Information Facebook page

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

Three consecutive years largely without monsoons, record-low soil moistures in the fall and below average winter snowpack have set the stage for the giant smoke plumes rising over Colorado this week…

The Sylvan fire was one of seven large fires in the state this year that collectively have burned 26,114 acres as of Friday. The fires put the state way ahead of where it was last year at this time. The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, which helps to coordinate firefighting across five states, upgraded its preparedness level to 3 this week which did not happen until Aug. 7 last year. The level reflects the number of fires and crews needed to fight them, said Larry Helmerick, a spokesman for the agency…

As a potentially dry summer sets in, the state has been split by vastly different fire-danger conditions. Two back-to-back drought years have set the Western Slope up for an early and intense fire season while eastern Colorado made an unexpected recovery with a cold and wet May that has given rise to green slopes. The new, tall grasses could pose their own danger if hot temperatures dry them out in the coming months, experts say.

However, the conditions on the Western Slope and many part of the west are already reaching record drought levels. It’s possible the coming wildfire season could be worse than last year in the extreme conditions, said Jeff Colton, a warning coordination and incident meteorologist for the National Weather Service…

Colorado Drought Monitor map June 22, 2021.

When the monsoon largely failed for the third year in a row on the Western Slope in 2020, the soils hit record low moisture levels and that dry soil soaked up the below average snowfall, hurting runoff, he said. Then last week, high temperatures hit in force with even Aspen hitting 90 degrees, he said. Humidity has also been extremely low, a contributor to fire risk…

Conditions in Colorado Springs

In Colorado Springs, the fire danger is higher than it would be in an average year even though the community is not currently in a drought, Fire Marshal Brett Lacey said.

The tall green grasses that flourished after a wet spring will likely pose a risk as they go dormant or die and dry out during the predicted hot and dry summer, he said.

When the grass catches fire they can produce flame lengths, up to triple the height of their own height, he said…

In eastern Utah the vegetation is starting to disappear, similar to conditions seen in 2012 when the region saw blowing dust.

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