Halfway through June of 2023, Colorado Springs has already seen double the normal rainfall for the entire month. That was not the case 10 years ago when the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires began.
Southern Colorado was ravaged by drought, compounded year over year from 2012 when the Waldo Canyon Fire burned.
Makoto Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Pueblo, responded to the Black Fores Fire as the incident meteorologist. His role was to provide daily forecasts for crews on the ground. He recalls, "Unfortunately this was a scenario 2 years in a row where everything kind of just lined up. The weather. The fuels were already stressed out because of drought. Everything just kind of perfectly aligned."
The drought monitor between 2012 during the Waldo Canyon Fire to 2013 during the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires shows that southern Colorado went from bad to worse, in a long-term drought.
The drought played a role in stressing out trees and fuels leading to the fire. The short-term weather conditions also added fuel to the fire.
Moore also notes that "normally the relative humidity recovers at night. It allows the fuels to recover some moisture. In this case the evening of the 9th and the 10th our RH didn’t record past 15%."
In June 2013, Colorado Springs saw three daily high-temperature records. On June 10th the record high was 98°. And on the day the fire started, June 11th, the record high was 97°.
With all of these conditions coming together, the meteorologists at the NWS Pueblo office were nervous about a fire. Moore remembers thinking at the time, "The fuels never had a chance to recover.., that coupled with exceptional drought. Everything was primed to go."
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