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Southern Colorado fire danger warning backed by fire science

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jul 08, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — Extreme dry, hot conditions have the attention of fire crews in Southern Colorado. Fire danger is shooting up and they want everyone aware.

There is science backing the warning. "Just because something looks green does not mean it has high moisture content in it at all,” said Colorado Springs Fire Department, Mitigation Specialist Ashley Whitworth, “We actually go out, pull the fuel samples, test them and come up with that fuel percent." Branches, leaves, and dead material at ground level called duff are gathered for samples of different types of fire fuel. They are tested each week for moisture content.

The testing happens in a special oven used by the fire department. The samples are put into individual tin containers that are weighed. "That is essentially what we call the wet weight because it hasn't been dried out,” said Whitworth, “It cooks for 24 hours. Then when it comes out, we reweigh it." An equation is applied to the before and after weights to come up with moisture content.

Fire fuels are getting very dry heading toward mid July. "We're looking at the temperature, we're looking at relative humidity, cloud cover," said Whitworth. All the factors combined, determine current fire danger. The danger was listed at high just before the 4th of July. It has now jumped to very high.