Summit County makes it from Memorial Day To Labor Day free of fire restrictions, but forecasts say the monsoon is over

Monsoonal rains douse mountains east of Keystone on the afternoon of Sunday, July 14, 2022. Due to heavy monsoonal rains this summer, there have been no fire restrictions from Memorial Day to Labor day in Summit County, even during predicted peak wildfire season of June.
Eiliana Wright/Summit Daily News

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Summit County has not had any fire restrictions. 

In an email on Monday, Aug. 29, Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons confirmed that there will be no fire restrictions for the week of Tuesday, Aug. 30, to Tuesday, Sept. 6. 

However, just because summer is over, fire danger is not yet out of the picture. As September approaches, conditions could change drastically, FitzSimons has warned in the past

At the beginning of 2022, in anticipation for summer, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control released a 2022 Wildfire Preparedness Plan for the state of Colorado. 

The report outlined safety measures, historical trends and predictions about the upcoming fire season.

“Core fire seasons are now an average of 78 days longer than they were in the 1970s,” the report noted. 

While the predicted wildfire peak of June has long passed, according to past reporting, FitzSimons has warned that Summit County’s typical fire season is in the fall. The Ptarmigan Fire that burned nearly 90 acres northeast of Silverthorne occurred at the end of September last year.

Just this week Jim Kalina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Boulder, forecasted a mostly dry and sunny week of weather in Dillon. 

Both FitzSimons and Kalina said a dominant high pressure system will move into the Summit County region. This means clearer skies, warmer temperatures and drier weather, according to Kalina’s forecast. 

On Wednesday and Friday, there is only a 20% chance of rain, Kalina said, with the rest of the week having below 20% chances of precipitation. 

This trend may continue, with both the two-week and three-month outlooks calling for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation, according to the forecast FitzSimons reviewed. 

These conditions will look different compared to Summit County’s weather so far this summer season. 

The Wildfire Preparedness Plan, published in April of 2022, noted that 2018 and 2020 were record-setting years for wildland fires and predicted that 2022 would similarly bring warm and dry temperatures. 

The summer of 2022, however, has been heavy with rain and moisture, as monsoonal rains came earlier than expected

The change has been drastic enough that long-time locals of Summit County have remarked about this summer’s difference in climate to the previous few years. This summer reminded many, including FitzSimons, of weather from 20 to 30 years ago. 

Kalina said that the Western Slope’s monsoon season, which contributed to keeping fire restrictions at bay this summer, is done and gone. 

Typically, Kalina added, the monsoon season for Summit County begins within the first one or two weeks of July and ends in mid-August. Now that we’re at the end of August, “Pretty much, we’ve lost all that moisture,” he said. 

The rain will now move south to begin the monsoon season for other regions.

“Looking at a satellite picture, all the moisture right now is over Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico,” Kalina said. “So it’s all focused down to the south, and it’s not flowing up to Colorado. So we’re pretty dry.”

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