Wildfire breaks out at Palisade Peach Festival; western Colorado under red flag warning

Posted at 9:02 AM, Aug 17, 2019

PALISADE, Colo. – Crews on Saturday were monitoring a fire that broke out Friday night at the Palisade Peach Festival near Grand Junction, officials said.

The started during a fireworks show at the festival and had burned 3-5 acres by Saturday morning, according to the East Orchard Mesa Fire Department. One vehicle was damaged and no homes had been threatened. But officials said there was potential for the fire to grow on Saturday, as most of western Colorado was under a red flag warning with critical fire conditions.

Gusty winds and low humidity were expected to create the red flag conditions, according to the National Weather Service. Below is a map of the affected areas, which begin around Vail and then run west along Interstate 70. Areas of southern Colorado, including Alamosa, are also under the red flag warning.

Wind gusts across the western Colorado and eastern Utah could reach 40 mph on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The winds are expected to calm down over most of the state on Sunday but gusts in northwest Colorado could still lead to fire conditions.

The red flag conditions this weekend come as parts of the state are creeping back toward drought territory. For weeks this summer, the state was 100% dry-free, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It was the first time in 20 years of monitoring that Colorado had no dry conditions.

Now, slivers of southwest Colorado, northwest Colorado and southeast Colorado are under the drought monitor's "abnormally dry" conditions. The drought monitor attributed the drier conditions partly to less monsoon rains.