COLORADO SPRINGS — Mid-July storms in Southern Colorado have resulted in a series of small lightning-caused wildfires. The fires in rural areas remained small because they were spotted early.
“We have a ton of lighting in our area and a big reason for it is we’re up right next to the mountains,” said News 5 Meteorologist Sam Schreier.
Observant citizens reporting wildfires to emergency responders will always be an important part of getting to fires early. In recent years Colorado has also added crews who go up in aircraft to spot fires when there are increased chances of a fire start.
“Here in Colorado, as we all know we get the monsoon season, in particular, we get a lot of lightning that comes through and that starts a fair amount of fires,” said Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, MMA Unit Chief. Bruce Dikken.
Dikken oversees crews who fly the state’s two MMA’s or Multi-Mission Aircraft. The two planes have high-tech cameras attached that can spot fires as small as a campfire from more than 30 miles away.
The MMA’s have been working over Southern Colorado as a result of the July lightning storms "We did fly in Fremont County today,” said Dikken, “We got reports of a couple of fires in El Paso County, Fremont County, possibly in Teller County and so we flew that area this morning.” The crews did pinpoint two small fires. The locations were relayed to fire crews on the ground.
“This time of year we’re getting scattered thunderstorms and a lot of those scattered storms mean there’s a bunch of these storms firing, but not necessarily a huge amount of rain with them,” said Schreier. When there is little rain following the lightning, the odds of a fire starting increase.
Even when there is rain, embers caused by lighting can smolder inside logs or under leaves. They can ignite later when days get hot and fire fuels become drier. The MMA crews know they have to remain alert for fires even days after a storm with lightning has passed through an area.
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