Glenwood Springs, area officials expect normal wildfire season |

Glenwood Springs, area officials expect normal wildfire season

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Mike Piper expects to get a call from the local paper each year around Memorial Day on what he thinks the upcoming wildfire season will be like.

“And if I had a crystal ball I would be rich and famous,” Piper said.

Every year the wildfire season comes just as sure as the “will it be a bad year or a good year” questions.

“I could do without it,” Piper said. “But it’s like clockwork around here. It could be bad, or you could roll the dice and it may not be that bad.”

But Piper was optimistic that this season could be what he called a “run-of-the-mill” wildfire season. According to Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd, the BLM expects a “normal” wildfire season as well.

Over the past five years the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit has had an average of 350 wildfires per year, Boyd said.

While most of the fires were small and extinguished before they grew out of hand, there is always that potential.

“Even in normal years we are very busy,” Boyd said. “We will be busy this year but are not expecting anything out of the ordinary,” Boyd said.

Piper said that the past few years have been pretty calm despite some highly publicized fires, like the County Road 100 Fire near Carbondale in April 2008, which threatened around 300 homes, caused evacuations and burned about 1,000 acres.

The Glenwood Springs Fire Department changed its burning permit process last year after the wildfire near Carbondale. Piper said that the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, which also operates the Glenwood Fire Protection District through an intergovernmental agreement, no longer provides burn permits from Memorial Day through Nov. 1. He also said that the fire protection districts countywide have an agreement not to issue permits from Memorial Day through at least Labor Day because of the extreme fire danger during the dry season. However, there are some circumstances where permits could still be issued, he said.

“It goes against our mission of preventing and suppressing fires if we are handing out pieces of paper that say it’s OK to go out and burn,” Piper said.

The heavy winter snowfall and the runoff may help to hold off the dry season for a while, but it’s never a guarantee that wildfires won’t happen.

“Snowmelt is not a wildfire predictor,” Piper said.

Boyd said that this year’s average snowpack levels are a good sign for a calm wildfire season. During the bad wildfire seasons the snowpack levels have been lower than average. High moisture levels can delay the fire potential for a little bit, Boyd said, but at the same time it’s growing fine fuels, such as grasses, that will quickly dry out and burn easily later in the season.

“Even if fire conditions aren’t extreme, there is still a fire danger,” Boyd said.

For those planning to camp during the Memorial Day holiday, Boyd cautioned people to be careful even if there are no fire restrictions in place. Boyd said to use common sense and make sure campfires are completely out before leaving and keep campfires clear of vegetation.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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