NewsCovering Colorado


Metro area fire departments warn of the danger of a YouTube trend, tinder dry grass

South Metro charges 4 with arson
Cottonwood fluff
Posted at 10:51 AM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 12:51:58-04

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- At a time when fire danger is high, fires are being started, not because of lightning or campfires, but because of a new social media challenge.

It's called the "Cottonwood Challenge," and some south metro residents are facing arson charges because of it.

"The children see this as something that looks cool," said South Metro Fire Rescue's Kim Spuhler. "However, it is so combustible that when they light it... This quick ignition can actually start a wildfire."

Spuhler said they've seen an uptick in kids taking part in the YouTube trend.

"We've had both children and adults charged with fourth-degree arson," she said. "Four people have been charged so far this month."

Spuhler said the challenge isn't quite as dangerous in areas of high humidity as it is in arid areas like much of Colorado.

"If we can just extinguish this challenge, we can focus on the natural causes," she said.

West Metro Fire Rescue shared photos of a cottonwood fluff fire that was not related to a challenge.

Braun Court fire

It was just a homeowner using fire to clean up a yard.

The fire singed a fence and threatened to move into a neighbor's yard.

Spuhler said it's not just cotton fluff that's dangerous — so is the natural grass that has grown much taller this year because of abundant rain.

"We've started to see that grass starting to crunch," she said. "You walk across it and it gets crunchy. That means its ready to ignite."

All it takes is a spark for native grasses to turn into a wall of fire racing with the wind.

And Spuhler said this is the time of year that native grasses start turning to seed, as temperatures climb into the 90s and 100s.

She said, it's also the time of year for fireworks.

"We know that if fireworks leave the ground, or go boom, it's illegal," she said.

Spuhler is imploring residents to forego illegal fireworks and attend professional displays, which are much safer.