Recent rains not enough to quench fire fears |

Recent rains not enough to quench fire fears

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Tom Healy was on his hands and knees in Summit County’s woods Friday morning, and he didn’t like what he found.

“Even with the rain, it’s still dry directly under the trees,” said Healy, an enforcement officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s nice to see the rain, but we need lots more of it.”

Though firefighters are getting the upper hand on the major fires burning in Colorado, the potential for new fires remains high.

“Rain like that helps reduce potential (fire) starts, so it’s a start,” said Lake Dillon Fire Chief Francis Winston. “But it’s still real dry. It’s going to take a lot of rain to really change conditions.”

Low snowfall followed by an abnormally dry spring has left Colorado bone dry. Colorado’s monsoon season – a period of heavy afternoon rains – typically gets under way in July and continues through August. While afternoon sprinkles have fallen on Summit County during the past few days, local weather watchers say it’s too soon to say if we’re returning to our normal rainy pattern.

Thursday, National Weather Service watcher Rick Bly said he recorded “a whopping .08 (inches),” in his Breckenridge rain gauge.

“Unfortunately, that is the most rainfall we’ve had at one time since May,” he said. “We’d have to get the rainfall we got yesterday every day from now through September just to bring us up to normal, and that’s not likely.

“I’ve heard predictions the monsoon season is going to start earlier this year, and God, I hope it does.”

Denver Water employees at the Dillon dam also record precipitation and measured .21 inches total Wednesday and Thursday.

“I almost fell over because I didn’t know what it was,” dam caretaker Dan Nyman joked about the rain. “It’s not significant, but it was good to get that much.”

Bly has access to weather records that go back to 1889, and according to those, dry winters are usually followed by average summers. He hopes that holds true this year.

“I worry the ground will get so hard that if we get an inch or so of rain, a lot of it’s going be rolling into the river before it gets a chance to settle,” Bly said. “Even though (Thursday’s rain) wasn’t much, we need a lot of good soaking rains like that.”

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