NewsCovering Colorado


Dry lightning strikes add to wildfire danger

Garden of the Gods Lightning Lars Leber Photography.jpg
Red Flag Warnings for Southern Colorado
Posted at 3:12 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 20:50:02-04

We are on Weather Alert this evening across the News5 viewing area.

Red Flag Warnings coupled with the threat for thunderstorms has our weather team very busy.

As we approach summer and the peak of our wildfire season, it's not hard to remember the devastation and destruction that the Waldo Canyon Fire caused back in 2012. The fire scorched more than 18,000 acres, and up until the Black Forest Fire the following year, it was the most destructive fire in Colorado's history.

The Waldo Canyon Fire was determined to be human-caused, but this time of the year, thunderstorms and dry lightning can also be blamed for starting wildfires.

The state of Colorado averages about 2,500 wildfires each year, with about half of all forest fires started by lightning.

The Decker Fire that burned almost 9,000 acres last September was started by a lightning strike.

The Decker Fire burned for more than a month, before firefighters reached full containment of the fire on October 24, 2019 after a snowstorm blasted through the area with cold and snowy weather.

Although many consider wildfire season to be year round, the wildfire threat in Colorado usually peaks from June through September, even lingering into October in some years.

That's when we also see a majority of our thunderstorms. Along with dry lightning, strong outflow winds from these thunderstorms can cause a wind driven fire to grow out of control very quickly.

It's a good reminder to watch the forecast closely and prepare for changing weather conditions and different scenarios when enjoying the outdoors.

If you're going to hike in the mountains, you should be ready for a wide variety of weather conditions. It's not uncommon this time of the year to go from sun and warmth to wind and snow to thunderstorms and lightning.