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Dry lightning could spark more wildfires this week in Colorado

Stats on wildfires
Posted at 6:45 PM, Aug 19, 2020

Thanks to a dry summer, our state continues to suffer from large wildfires and thick smoke.

Fire danger will remain elevated over parts of western and central Colorado through Thursday as dry thunderstorms could prompt more wildfires.

Stats on wildfires
Wildfire facts and stats

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, lightning can be blamed for starting more than 22,000 fires per year between 2007 and 2011.

According to NOAA and the National Weather Service, Colorado averages close to 2,500 wildfires per year. About half of all wildfires in our state are started by lightning.

The threat for lightning induced wildfires increases significantly by the middle of June, and can remain high through early September.

The main threats will come from summer-time thunderstorms that can produce frequent lightning and strong wind gusts.

Often referred to as dry or elevated thunderstorms, this type of weather event can enhance the risk of wildfires due to dry lightning strikes.

Thunderstorms in the west will often lack significant amounts of low level moisture, meaning that air near the surface will be very dry.

Rain will be present close to the clouds, but as the rain falls into drier air, it will evaporate.

These elevated thunderstorms tend to produce a lot lightning and wind, but little to no rainfall.

Wind from a storm can turn smoldering brush or dry fuels into a raging blaze. During a drought or dry times of the year, fuels can burn out of control.

Pine Gulch Fire Update

We already know that lightning started the Pine Gulch Fire, which broke out July 31, 2020 near Grand Junction. Tonight, that fire stands as the second largest wildfire in our state's history. It has burned more than 125,000 acres, with just 7% containment.