Fire danger no higher than normal this summer

A relatively cold winter and wet spring means most of Colorado should have a normal fire-threat season, but the northwest corner of the state might have more problems, state officials said Thursday.

Colorado State Forest Service Director Jeff Jahnke said a spring that has seen little rain and an expected dry summer could make the northwest section of the state more susceptible to wildfires than other parts of Colorado that have seen higher-than-normal winter snows and spring rains.

Still, the state will be ready to handle whatever the fire season brings, Jahnke promised.

“What we’re going to do is continue to monitor it,” he said. “We have some single-engine air tankers, three under contract, so as the fire situation develops we’ll preposition them to be ready to respond to wherever the high fire danger is.”

John Twitchell, district forester for Routt, Moffat and Jackson counties, said he’s still hopeful the summer won’t be as dry as predicted.

Still, Twitchell is planning for the worst, just in case.

“I certainly pay attention to these predictions, but I also keep in mind that’s what they are, predictions,” he said. “The far west of my district near Dinosaur (National Monument) has not received as much moisture as some other areas, and Moffat County in general receives a lot of lightning strikes. So as a pragmatist, we just need to be ready for whatever we get and always prepare for a bad season.”

Meanwhile, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit will be on guard too, said Erin Curtis, public information officer in the unit’s Bureau of Land Management office in Grand Junction.

She said the unit has three fully staffed fire engines in Grand Junction, two in Eagle and three more in Rifle, which also is home base for the unit’s wildfire attack helicopter.

“We’ve hired all of our seasonal (firefighters), we’ve been getting them trained up, we’ve had all of our refresher courses for all of our firefighters, and just this week they’re doing readiness training,” Curtis said. “So we’re gearing up for the season as best we can.”

As in recent fire seasons, the problem this year is exacerbated by the thousands of dying trees because of the pine beetle infestation.


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