Colorado wildfires in December may become more common, expert says

Miner's Candle Fire
Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 11:04:00-05

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — Talk to anyone who’s lived near the area where the Miner’s Candle Fire is burning in Clear Creek County for a long time, and they’ll say they can’t recall the last time they had to deal with a wildfire in December.

“It's never, never happened,” said Bill Miner, who was evacuated from his home on Trail Creek Road Sunday morning. “Some friends of mine have lived up there since the 70s, and they say it’s the first time it's ever happened. … They worry about it every year, but it's never happened.”

Experts warn Colorado may see more of these end-of-the-year wildfires if dry conditions persist past summer across the state.

“It's important to recognize that this is a year-end threat now, that wildfires can happen in Colorado any time of year,” wildfire expert Michael Kodas said Monday.

Kodas is a senior editor at Inside Climate News and author of “Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame.” The book explores the explosion of wildfires over the years.

“They can happen at elevations that we think, ‘Gosh, it's just way too cold and snowy this time of year for us to have any kind of fire threat,’” he said.

The Miner’s Candle Fire started as a house fire that quickly spread to another house because of high winds, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office said. Dry brush and a lack of snow cover allowed it to spread across 15 acres.

It was 50% contained as of Monday morning. Sheriff Rick Albers said the goal is to have it fully contained by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

But had there been snow on the ground, as there typically is this time of the year, firefighters may have had an easier time putting the fire out, Kodas said.

“The heat of the fire… might tend to melt some of that snow. But, of course, that's going to be moisture that might keep those fuels from being so available to ignite,” he said.

The best thing anyone can do, he said, is to be prepared for year-round fire season and adapt to what may become the new reality.

“Rather than thinking in terms of, ‘Well, all of our fires happen in the summer or the late spring,’ think in terms of what has the weather been like and what has the climate been like,” Kodas said.