SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The fire danger is currently a big concern across Colorado.
Strong winds fanned the flames of a brush fire in Boulder Canyon Monday night, but quick work by firefighters kept them away from buildings.
In the northeast part of the state fire danger ranges from high to even extreme thanks to the warm weather and low humidity. The danger is much lower in the high country, but it doesn’t take long for that to change.
The fire season is growing, and so far with a dry pattern in January is setting up very similar to January 2012. With drought conditions looking like they’ll continue, fire departments are already on high alert.
“Things get compounded. The longer a drought extends, the drier the vegetation becomes,” Steve Lipsher with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue said.
With some spots becoming bare in the high country, the worry over fire danger is ramping up. It’s the part of the state that missed out on major wildfires like that were seen in other parts of Colorado. Without significant snowfall since 2011, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue isn’t taking chances.
“The fire season now is about 2 1/2 months longer than it was 40 years ago, and we’re burning about twice as much acreage,” Lipsher said.
This winter the fire department didn’t take its wildland trucks out of commission.
“That’s something we haven’t done in the past. We often will take them out of service, maintain them over the winter months, drain them of their water, things like that,” Lipsher said.
Lipsher says it’s not just the drought that’s drying out vegetation and increasing risk, but the chances for a wildfire are nearly year-round.
“The best we can do is keep our crews trained and prepared and ready; keep our equipment prepared and ready; just always be vigilant,” he said.
The first wildfire crews in Summit County battled last year was in March, just a few weeks away.
Signs don’t seem to be getting better, at least in the foreseeable future. There was an article in Aspen saying the town is on pace to break a record set in 1961 for the least amount of snow ever for the month of January. Historically the snowiest months are still ahead.