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Late season wildfire threat continues

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Posted at 3:43 PM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 17:43:14-04

Late season wildfires are not all that uncommon in Colorado and the potential for grassland fires continues this year.

“On average there are 2,100-plus acre fires in Colorado during the month of October," said Tim Mathewson, a meteorologist with the Bureau of Land Management.

He adds that the majority of the fires are human-caused. Those may include arson, campfires, equipment use, burning debris, railroads, power lines, and Mother Nature can add lightning as an igniter.

The largest October fire the state has had was the Overland Fire, near Jamestown in Boulder County; 12 homes were destroyed along with nearly 4,000 acres.

That same day, October 29, 2003, a second fire started on the Palmer Divide. The Cherokee Ranch fire burned about 1,000 acres.

Both fires were started by strong wind that knocked down power lines. That wind came from a strong cold front that arrived in the evening, which dropped rain and snow across the area.

The example of 2003 reminds us that in dry months (like this September and now the start of October) could have active fires.

Mathewson says, “In October 2015, at least the first half of the month, will see a more active weather pattern compared to 1995, 2003, and 2010.”

That more active weather pattern will begin soon, with the arrival of a strong cold front late this week. This system will likely bring good moisture to the driest areas of the state, including the metro areas and Front Range.

Should dry weather return, the Prescribed Fire and Fuels Program Lead with the Forest Service, Sam Dearstyne, reminds us all to be mindful of the on-going threat, “Putting your cigarettes out your campfires out, watching your trailers as you are going down the interstate the chains they cause fires."

The outlook includes a high fire danger around the Denver metro area. “Look out for grassy areas. The lower foothill regions generally below 8000 feet this time of year because there is a significant grass component. It's not just the plains, but the lower foothill regions are a concern as well."