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Explaining what fuels wildfires in southern Colorado

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 12, 2024

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Although fire danger locally wasn't a huge concern Wednesday, the fire burning near Twin Lakes is raising eyebrows across the state.

Wildfire in Twin Lakes area more than doubles in size

It serves as a reminder that fire season is year-round in Colorado.

With the potential for record breaking heat and dry air late this week, that's a recipe, weather wise, for high fire danger. Thankfully, we're not talking high fire right now because of greener and wetter fuels in most of southern Colorado.

Wildfires, as we know, they can occur anytime of the year, but its mainly the spring and fall when grass fire season reaches its peak. Grasses and other brush can dry up very quickly given the right combination of windy, dry and hot weather. With a spark, grass fires burn fast, usually lasting for hours or days.

Wildland or forest fires, they burn much more slowly, the main fuel being trees or thicker brush that can burn much more intensely than short grasses.

Now with weather and more extreme topography, a forest fire can chew away thousands of acres, burning for weeks or months.

The fire burning right now in Lake County about 50 miles south of Leadville could see some more growth Wednesday because of windy thunderstorms in the area.

Across the state, no larger scale fire concerns are in the forecast for the remainder of Wednesday. Threats remain very low into Thursday as well, while an elevated fire risk can be seen over parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Looking ahead as we transition into La Niña this summer, longer range data suggests below average rainfall for the state, and this summer's temperature outlook is in favor of above average highs.

This is important as we transition towards La Niña. This brings the potential for a hot and dry summer to southern Colorado.

A lack of rain this summer could lead to more extreme fire conditions later this year.

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