Grand Valley temps, fire danger soar

By MIKE WIGGINS
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A wildfire burning north of Fruita in the Bookcliffs grew more than tenfold in size Friday, and officials say they expect other lightning-sparked fires to ignite this weekend.

The Buniger Fire had burned nearly 300 acres as of Friday afternoon, said Patrick Thrasher, spokesman for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit. Fire behavior increased Friday as humidity levels dropped and temperatures increased.

Federal officials say the fire is burning in pinon-juniper trees, oak brush and grass, and no structures are threatened.

One Bureau of Land Management fire engine with a four-person crew and one helicopter are monitoring the fire, which is believed to have been started by lightning, Thrasher said.

Officials say fire danger in western Colorado ranges from high to very high, and they believe there will be a surge in lightning-caused fires as the weekend progresses.

The high in Grand Junction surged to 102 degrees Friday. It tied for the warmest temperature recorded at Grand Junction Regional Airport so far this year and marked the fifth time the temperature has reached or exceeded the century mark in the past eight days, according to National Weather Service data.

A little relief is in sight, however.

Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster with the Weather Service, said the Grand Valley should see a chance of rain today through Tuesday, with the odds of moisture increasing with the passage of each day.

He said the weekend could start out with dry lightning, but “by Tuesday the storms should be better.”

High temperatures should also drop into the low- to mid-90s over the next several days.


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