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Reality check: wildfire season is year-round in Colorado

wildfire
Posted at 4:25 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 22:13:33-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Let's face it, forest fires grab our attention. They burn thousands of acres, create large billows of smoke, and can last for months.

But this week, grass fires are stealing our attention with their surge in frequency. A wildfire north of Woodland Park prompted evacuations on Thursday. Over 600 acres of one rancher's property burned in the Bent's Old Fort fire and a volunteer firefighter lost his home in the Fort Lyon fire this week. A home burned down in a wildfire in El Paso county Sunday. And an animal shelter was evacuated during a fast-moving wildfire in Pueblo over the weekend.

Research published in 2018 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that in the western U.S. local fire departments are responding to wildfires year-round.

Local Fire Department Wildfire Response by month; Data from National Fire Protection Association

The NFPA found that 75% of their fire response is grass and brush fires. This data does not include federal wildfire response, which accounts for the majority of forest fires. But, what it does indicate is wildfire threats to municipalities and cities are predominately grass and brush fires.

Local Fire Department Response to Wildfires in the Western US by Fuel Type; Data from National Fire Protection Association

Types of Wildfires

Grass and brush fires consist of quick-drying, flashy fuels. Forest fires are slow drying, long burning fuels.

Grass and brush fires usually last hours or days and they will happen any time of year. Forest fires have a general seasonality to them. During the winter and early spring, the snowpack keeps fires at bay. After spring snow melt, forests will gradually dry through the summer and fall. Forest fires can burn for weeks or months.

Bottom line, it is always a good idea to educate yourself on your home's wildfire risk. Both Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado have created interactive maps to determine your wildfire risk.
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