Record heat contributing to county’s high fire danger |

Record heat contributing to county’s high fire danger

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Record heat is only exacerbating Summit County’s fire danger, further drying out already dry trees and grasses.

“We usually don’t see temperatures like these until July and August,” said Dillon Dam caretaker Dave Fernandez. “The average maximum temperature for June is 68.8 degrees. We’re well above our averages.”

The temperature hit 80 degrees Sunday, 79 on Saturday and 77 on Friday.

Fernandez suspects the county’s all-time highest temperature of 85 degrees may be shattered this summer. So far, dam caretakers have recorded an 85-degree reading just twice: on July 21, 1998 and Aug. 9, 1969.

Their thermometer is set up near Corinthian Hills, east of the reservoir. Fernandez said the proximity to the water “might somewhat” influence the readings. Dam workers have been recording temperatures there for more than 40 years.

They also measure precipitation, another weather factor that is far from normal this season.

“We’re way behind on precipitation,” Fernandez said. “So far, we’ve got 2.88 inches for the year. Through May, we should have received 6.91 inches.”

The heat, combined with wind and the preceding dry winter, make Summit County’s potential for fire every bit as high as in parts of the state that already are burning.

“We have just as high a danger as Glenwood Springs and the Deckers area,” said Summit County wildfire officer Patti Macguire. “If we had some good afternoon monsoons like we usually do in June, it would help a lot. With these conditions, when you do have wildfire, it’s going to be more aggressive. It’s not worth it to have open flame right now. It’s not worth it to smoke a cigarette outside in the wind.”

Fernandez sees the effects of the wind on the reservoir.

“Just because of the dry wind with its low humidity, we’re seeing reservoir surface evaporation,” he said.

“On the positive side, we’ve actually gained 2 feet in elevation since our low on May 16 because of runoff. We were 25.8 feet down. Now we’re 23.8 feet down. And we’re still gaining, not much, but maybe a half inch a day.”

But because the runoff peaked June 2, Fernandez doesn’t expect those gains to be made for much more than another two weeks.

“Then it will go down again,” he said.

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