Fires have burned more than 400,000 acres in Colorado this year, which has proven to be one of the worst fire seasons ever in our state.
During a normal fire season, season-ending analysis graphs can be a great tool to gauge the potential for a season-ending event to occur. However, as recent events have demonstrated, 2020 is not “normal.” The data used in these analyses does not adequately capture the drought scenario the Rocky Mountain Region is currently experiencing. These conditions have not occurred in the last 20 years, rendering season-ending analysis data virtually unusable.
Though snow has fallen, and humidity levels are still above the critical stages, we are not out of the woods. The extreme drought we are experiencing this year, in combination with the severe beetle kill from the early 2000s, has resulted in fire conditions unlike any we have ever seen.
With winter approaching and the weather changing, we hope for relief. However, several back-to-back storm systems with significant precipitation and/or high levels of snow accumulation that stay on the landscape for the rest of the winter are needed to truly end this fire season. Without a significant amount of moisture, extreme drought conditions will continue, and it is possible that heat in the larger fuels could survive even under snow cover, and fires could re-emerge in the spring.
Unfortunately, fire danger remains elevated for the foreseeable future. Now, more than ever, we all need to continue to be vigilant and take precautions in order to prevent unwanted human-caused wildfires.
“This year’s fire behavior in Colorado has been erratic and at times, extreme; it is often hard to predict what these types of fires do,” said Caley Fisher, public information officer for the Division of Fire Prevention and Control. “The snow has done positive things and the fires are on pause but have not necessarily stopped. We need to maintain a vigilant posture and follow county guidelines on fire restrictions.”