BYERS, Colo. (CBS4) – A grass fire that started along Interstate 70 in Byers on Tuesday was a taste of what could be to come as winds whip up. Same thing for a fire near Highway 85 and Titan Road in Douglas County where South Metro Fire’s Eric Hurst noted it was bad and getting worse.
“Not only because of the gusty winds and dry conditions right now, but the forecasted dangerous winds that are coming tomorrow.”
“So we’re going to try and put more of our suppression resources closer to where the fires could occur,” said Phil Daniels, deputy chief of Operations at the state’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
That includes actions like moving a hand crew out of Gilpin County down to the Eastern Plains, even with winds on some mountain passes expected to reach 100 miles an hour Wednesday.
“If you’re east of the Continental Divide, there is a good chance that the fire danger around you tomorrow will be very high to extreme. Throughout the state is bad. East of I-25 is very bad.”
There’s drought all over Colorado and some of the worst conditions are on the plains.
“All of our fuels, the grass, the sticks, the logs all of them have not received substantial moisture in many, many, many weeks.”
It will be bad enough in the Denver metro area. Xcel Energy has pre-positioned crews in anticipation of power lines coming down. Tree branches could come down in what will be the equivalent of hurricane force winds.
Xcel said in a statement it has “Increased staffing levels and put operational plans in place to make sure key employees, including line workers, are available.”
Some school districts like Gilchrest in southeast Colorado canceled school Wednesday ahead of the dangerous high winds.
In Bennett, truck driver Allen Gilcrease was thinking about the road ahead.
“Being in a semi, we don’t have that luxury of like a little car that doesn’t get blown off the road. We can get tipped over, roll our truck, lose our load, and that’s the quickest way for one of us, a truck driver to lose our lives out here.”
It also delays transportation.
“It’s harder for us to make our scheduled deliveries. We have to shut down. We can’t drive as far as we want,” said Gilcrease. He planned to drive a bit Tuesday night, stop, sleep and get moving Wednesday to stay ahead of the wind.
In high winds, being a trucker is a nail biting job.
“We’re more focused on, ‘OK where’s the trailer, where’s my truck? How am I doing? Am I swerving back and forth because of the wind?’ and now put cars involved. It gets scary really fast.”
Daniels said people should be aware of the danger they might cause.
“We don’t want any starts to occur so if town a trailer make sure that your chains are tied up so they’re not dragging on the ground. If you smoke, please don’t smoke in an area where your ashes will potentially start a fire. And don’t use tomorrow as your day to burn leaves.”
In addition he said, don’t assume someone else has called in a fire if you see one. Time is even more crucial.