2019 Colorado Wildfire Preview
There is some debate on what the 2019 Colorado wildfire season will be like.
At this moment, winter storm warnings are being issued for the Colorado high country. Over the next day or two, places like Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, and other higher elevation towns are excepted to receive as much as 10 to 20 inches of snow with the heaviest snowfall taking place above 9,000 feet.
As I reported back on April 16th, Colorado has enjoyed one of the wettest winters and heaviest snowfalls on record. With winter apparently not over in the higher elevations the record Colorado snowpack will only get larger. It would seem logical that all this moisture would drastically minimize the wildfire risk. Well, maybe. There's the argument that the additional moisture will cause explosive growth of grasses and underbrush, the primary fuel for wildfires. When summer, with its heat and drier weather eventually arrives, the latter half of wildfire season could be extra challenging.
2018 was one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. Colorado experienced 18 wildfire incidents that qualified as "state responsibility." The cost to extinguish those fires was more than $40 million!
According to the Bureau of Land Management wildfire forecast report, "Contributing to the conditions are Colorado’s third-largest snowpack since 1992, at about 130% of average, as well as predictions of below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation in the short and long term." Given that, meteorologists are forecasting a "below-average potential" for wildfires now through July.
That's much different than this time last year. Back then the Colorado snowpack was only at about 57% of average. Those dry conditions helped usher in one worst wildfire seasons in Colorado history, including the massive 108,045-acre Spring Creek fire in La Veta.and the 54,129-acre 416 fire near Durango, along with many others.
Even with the favorable conditions, crews are excepted to respond to nearly 600 Colorado wildfires in 2019, says Colorado Fire Prevention and Control Director Mike Morgan.
Credit: CBS Denver