Vegetation begins to cure, increasing fire threat |

Vegetation begins to cure, increasing fire threat

LAKEWOOD, Colo. ” The spring green-up across Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region may result in higher fire danger by the end of the month as grass and other fuels begin to dry out, fire experts said Thursday.

The five-state Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center updated its wildfire forecast this week. The report still predicts an average fire season in Colorado, meaning about 2,300 fires will blacken between 50,000 and 60,000 acres. But it said much of the region was in good shape.

“Drought conditions have significantly improved over Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, eastern South Dakota and southern Wyoming over the past year,” the report said. “Drought conditions have also improved this spring across northern Wyoming, but remain in the severe to extreme categories over northern Wyoming and the Black Hills” of South Dakota.

Spokesman Larry Helmerick said the southwestern corner of Colorado can expect fewer fires this summer after the area received above-average moisture last winter. But other parts of the state are drying out.

“We had a hot spell in the end of May that has started the curing process across some sections of Colorado,” said Larry Helmerick, a spokesman with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. “So, we’re just getting ready. A weaker-than-average monsoon prediction could increase our fire danger in late June in Colorado.”

According to the forecast, the northern Rocky Mountains are also facing a dry year.

“We don’t expect another cool and wet summer like we had in 2004,” Helmerick said. “We’re looking for July, August and September, with a weaker monsoon season, to possibly give us a higher potential for fire .”

He said northern Wyoming, parts of Montana and areas stretching into western South Dakota are still in a prolonged drought.

“We feel that’s where a lot of our major wildfires may be this summer,” Helmerick said.


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