April showers don’t seem to be bringing May flowers to Colorado Springs this year, instead, lack of precipitation this month could make for the onset of an early fire season.
The summer of 2020 saw a record setting year of drought and fires with the third worst year of drought in state history and three of the state’s largest wildfires to date and 2021 could be lining up for a repeat, warned Colorado Springs city forester Dennis Will.
“I don’t think that the soil or the trees have recovered from those conditions despite the semi-wet winter conditions,” Will said.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Colorado Springs Monday due to humidity levels below 7% gust winds. The gusty winds are expected to stick around, with speeds hitting 45 mph by Thursday afternoon, said Eric Petersen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.
“We had some moisture to tamp down the fire risk and we have had a few inches of snow and that has helped,” Petersen said of April. “But today we will have stuff dry out — today is the day to watch out for fire danger.”
Colorado Springs was nearly half an inch of moisture behind the typical average for April, Petersen said.
“We had a little bit of recovery with the last storm but, if we don’t get any moisture in the next month or two, we’ll be back right where we were in drought conditions,” warned Colorado Springs Fire Department spokesman Mike Smaldino.
Data from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed El Paso County in moderate to severe drought conditions.
Long range forecasts indicated Colorado Springs could see a drier than average May and June, Russ Mann a meteorologist for Rocky Mountain Fire Coordination Center said.
The drought has meant that firefighters don’t get a break.
“We’ve transitioned to where our fire season is all year long and even between some of these snowstorms,” Smaldino said. “I’d like to go back to the traditional fire season, but that’s where we are now.”
Rain and snowfall throughout April brought enough moisture to grow quick burning fuels such as grass, but not enough water to thoroughly soak the ground, Smaldino said.
The grass can dry out and act as tinder for wildfires, Smaldino said.
On days like Monday, when fire danger is high, trucks designed to fight wildfires, are sent to every fire call in case winds spread flames, Smaldino said.
Tuesday and Wednesday’s forecast held high chances of rain, the weather service said.
“Even if we get pretty good rain tomorrow, by the end of the week with high winds it will be ready to burn,” Smaldino said.
This content was originally published here.