Summit County raises fire danger to ‘High’ as wildfire season reaches the High Country
Summit County has raised its fire danger to “High” on Saturday as an early summer is drying out the state and exposing all the fuel around us to the elements.
While Summit has been relatively lucky when it comes to snowpack this past winter, the snow has already melted and river levels have already peaked, a rarity in June. The dry-out started early and in earnest, and residents and visitors are advised to be fire-aware from here on out.
Captain Matt Benedict of the Red, White and Blue fire district in Breckenridge said that all the signs point to the arrival of fire season.
“The fuels are starting to hit the threshold where we know they burn well,” Benedict said. “They’ll be pretty susceptible to burn. There are certainly wet pockets left in Summit, but the majority in Summit County is going at high danger of fire.”
Benedict also reported that last week, fire districts responded to two wildfires, one north of Silverthorne and one in Park County. He said that while it wasn’t the only reason to raise the fire danger to high, that kind of activity certainly helps the case to do so.
“There was a fire north of Silverthorne in the Willows, and at night, which is a little shocking,” Benedict said. “There was one over in Park County where everybody around here responded, and it happened the same day. The pattern you’ll see in wildfires is that when we hit certain heat and dryness thresholds, fires happen in clusters like that. It’s a real solid sign that things are getting real.”
Summit County’s reality is catching up with much of the rest of the state, where fire danger has been rated as “high” or “extreme” in southern Colorado since April. Fire bans are in effect for a majority of counties in the state, including neighboring Park County.
At the moment, Durango is dealing with the 416 Fire that has been burning for over a week, consuming 8,700 acres of forestland with only 10 percent containment. At the moment, human life and property are not at risk, but evacuations for hundreds of homes are underway.
Back at home, Summit’s fire districts have been preparing for a harsh wildfire season and will continue to train while expecting the worst. Benedict said that fire districts will be performing several training exercises in subdivisions this month, along with a full-scale wildfire exercise involving many different local, county, state and federal agencies.
Fire training exercises will take place on June 18 and 22 in Mesa Cortina, near Silverthorne, and on the 20th in Breckenridge. The large scale exercise will take place on June 21 in Silverthorne, during which time certain roads may be blocked off and traffic disruption may occur. A fire safety event will be held after the exercise for the community to get together and have fun while learning about fire preparedness.
Summit County has also worked with the U.S. Forest Service and the sheriff’s office to add more human resources into the forests to ensure fire safety and educate campers and hikers.
“With lack of moisture and rising temperatures, our risk of fire rises,” said County Commissioner Dan Gibbs. “Individually, as a community we need to do our part to keep our community safe.”
Residents and visitors can help mitigate fire danger by properly putting out campfires by making sure they are completely cooled before leaving them unattended, as well as properly disposing of cigarette butts and not setting off fireworks. Create defensible spaces around your homes by clearing brush and follow best practices such as not leaving firewood under or on top of decks. For more information about how to be more fire-aware, contact your local fire district.
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