Glenwood area fire danger not severe – yet | PostIndependent.com
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Glenwood area fire danger not severe – yet

It’s dry out there, but not dry enough yet to get burned up about the upcoming wildfire season. The likely severity of the upcoming wildfire season on public lands in Garfield County isn’t yet known, but the current fire danger is highest at lower elevations and low at higher elevations, said White River National Forest (WRNF) fire ecologist Brenda Wilmore. No fire restrictions are in place on the WRNF, on BLM lands in the Glenwood Springs area or in Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Eagle or Mesa counties, though some forests in Colorado, including the Pike and San Isabel national forests, have announced a fire ban. WRNF officials haven’t been able to gauge moisture content in forest fire fuel – dead and fallen trees, grasses, and other material that is likely to burn – because fuel monitoring sites are still inaccessible, Wilmore said. At low elevations, especially in Glenwood Canyon, cheatgrass presents the highest fire danger, she said. Whatever this year’s hot weather and combustible forests throw at them, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit – a joint program of the federal Bureau of Land Management and the USDA Forest Service – is prepared to go on the forest fire offensive. WRNF spokeswoman Kristi Ponozzo said the unit’s firefighting crews are nearly fully staffed. On Tuesday, the unit had three fire engines stationed in Rifle, a “Helitack” crew also stationed in Rifle for an air attack on a fire, and one initial attack squad available. The BLM also had 11 smokejumpers available, according to the unit’s fire and resource status report. With dry weather forecast and humidity in the single digits, especially over the next week, the immediate wildfire danger could rise. Some of that danger can be blamed on last year’s abundant moisture. “I would say that based on last year’s moisture, the expectation for this year is that there would be more fuel carry-over,” particularly grasses, said Vince Urbina, a forester for the Colorado Forest Service. “The heavier fuels still have some moisture in them. It’s the fine fuels (such as grasses) that are starting to be problematic.”That means the area could see bigger, hotter wildfires than last year, he said. Already, Garfield County has a deficit in precipitation, and the next week’s forecast isn’t going to improve the fire outlook very much. “It’s really dry,” said National Weather Service (NWS) Grand Junction-based meteorologist Heather Orow. “We’re going down each afternoon. Humidity is in the single digits.”Rifle – the only town in Garfield County for which the NWS compiles weather data – has had only 70 percent of its normal precipitation, the agency reported. Only 3.63 inches have fallen there this year. Normal precipitation is 5.21 inches. Ponozzo said the WRNF is “not very close” to implementing fire restrictions, though a couple of more weeks of dry weather could change that. Perfect wildfire weather is an explosive cocktail of hot temperatures, high winds and low humidity. No rain is predicted between Glenwood and Grand Junction for the next week, Orow said, and winds are expected to remain calm. Despite record low temperatures in Grand Junction Tuesday and near record lows in Rifle, the NWS predicts mostly hot and dry conditions for the next week.Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com


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