Warm, dry week in Colorado could bring minor increase in wildfire activity

Firefighters made big gains in containment with last week's cooler and wetter conditions
Muddy Slide Fire support for firefighters
Posted at 12:19 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 08:15:17-04

After wet and cooler weather last week, conditions across Colorado will warm up and dry out throughout the week, which may increase wildfire activity in the state, though any growth is expected to stay minimal.

For the past week, Colorado's wildfires have grown very little. Precipitation and cooler temperatures helped firefighters increase containment levels on all of the notable fires in the state.

The warming trend will be disrupted on Saturday, with cooler weather moving in from the north. Temperatures will drop 10 to 15 degrees then. Next week will kick off with a better chance of storms in the afternoons than later this week.

Bureau of Land Management land in Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Summit Counties and White River National Forest will move to Stage 1 fire restrictions on Friday.

Below is the current status of each wildfire in Colorado.

Oil Springs Fire | 12,613 acres | 99% contained

The lightning-caused Oil Springs Fire was reported on June 18 about 20 miles south of Rangely. As of Sunday, it was 99% contained, according to the Rio County Sheriff's Office.

The blaze is not expected to grow beyond its current size, fire officials said Friday. They said that morning update will be the last one.

Crews are currently monitoring the fire and patrolling the containment lines around its perimeter. People in the area may see dust devils and smoldering as fuels within the containment lines burn.

County Road 116, 113 and Bureau of Land Management Road 1045 will open soon, the sheriff's office said.

Stage 2 fire restrictions are in place for Rio Blanco County.

Sylvan Fire | 3,792 acres | 68% contained

The Sylvan Fire, which is burning 15 miles south of Eagle, started on June 20 and its cause is under investigation.

A drying trend will begin Wednesday over the fire as crews continue to try to improve containment lines southeast of Sylvan Lake. Friday may have gusty winds between 25 and 30 mph, with near-critical conditions in lower elevations, fire officials said.

A short reconnaissance flight on July 4 showed little to no smoke or other fire activity.

The blaze has the potential to be a long-duration fire due to the steep terrain, fuel types, and forecasted weather.

Sylvan Lake State Park is closed.

Eagle County and Pitkin County are currently under Stage 2 fire restrictions.

Muddy Slide Fire | 4,093 acres | 45% contained

The Muddy Slide Fire, which is burning in the area of Forest Service Roads 280 and 285 on Green Ridge in south Routt County, sparked June 20 and its cause is under investigation.

The fire's activity is minimal, with "smoldering, creeping, and isolated torching," fire officials said.

Crews are continuing to work on control lines. Warmer conditions this week may result in minor increases in fire movement as winds increase and humidity decreases. Winds on Thursday and Friday may include gusts up to 25 mph, meaning critical fire weather conditions will likely be a concern.

The blaze has the potential to be a long-duration fire.

Stage 2 fire restrictions are in effect in Routt County.


Multiple fires are now 100% contained, including the Trail Canyon Fire in Montezuma County, the West Fire northwest of Craig, and the Wild Cow Fire in Garfield County.

Flash floods are still possible this week over the burn scars from 2020's wildfires, but the threat will lessen by mid-week.

Tracie Harrison with FEMA Region 8 explained these flood risks in burn scars will remain significantly higher until vegetation is restored, and the watershed is stabilized.

"So, normally, the vegetation absorbs rainwater — it reduces runoff. However, the wildfire leaves the ground charred and unable to absorb this water from their fire," she said. "It creates conditions ideal for flash flooding, and these flooding events are generally more severe, as it takes far less rain to produce a flash flood or mudflow on these burn areas."

The National Weather Service said storms Tuesday won't become as intense as they were Monday, and will move across the state faster. The risk of storms over the burn scars decreases Wednesday through Friday, when more dry air moves in.

Flash flood concerns in these burn scars will remain a concern for five or more years.