By Logan Smith


DENVER (CBS4) – Coloradans have grown accustomed to busy wildfire seasons over the course of recent summers.

Video of blazes lighting up entire hillsides, for instance. Acreages in the thousands. Residents lugging tubs of personal effects from their homes.

That’s not the case this year — so far.

Thanks to the past winter’s bountiful snowpack, the past spring’s voluminous precipitation, and this summer’s healthy monsoon season, current conditions in the mountains in no way resemble those of a recent wildfire season. Each of those effects are not unusual by themselves, said CBS4 Meteorologist Dave Aguilera. But “it’s been a long time” since all three have occurred in the same year.

In fact, at this time last year, the state was dealing with more than 1,500 wildfires that burned more than 430,000 acres of land, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. In comparison, Colorado has experienced 416 fires and about 13,500 burned acres up to now this year.

“Last year it wasn’t uncommon for us to have a day with 20,000 acres by itself,” said CDFPC Planning Branch Chief Rocco Snart.

Rather than relax, the state’s wildland firefighters are using their time this year to implement new tactics.

“(The Division) is the first fire agency in Colorado to conduct night flying wildland operations and the first state in the US to implement a helicopter night flying suppression program,” the CDFPC boasted in a recent Facebook post.

Helicopter crews have practiced 240-gallon water bucket drops during twilight hours for several weeks. Their support teams have exercised night vision capabilities.

The hope is to produce a nighttime aerial firefighting program that can supplement the standard daytime operations — at a time when those standard operations have been put to bed.

Need further proof of Colorado’s advantageous fire conditions?

One of the state’s two MMA firefighting aircraft departed Centennial Airport Sunday morning for an out-of-state assignment. The plane and its crew of four will assist firefighting efforts in Oregon.

Also, a prescribed burn scheduled for Monday in the Red Feather Lakes area was postponed due to rain.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfires section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

Logan Smith

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