The Colorado State Forest Service urges Coloradans to help prevent wildfires over Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer. During the holidays, people recreate on public forests and grasslands where above-average wildfire activity is predicted this fire season, and fire experts are concerned about forecasts of drier, warmer weather.
Colorado’s Eastern Plains, northwest Colorado and lower elevations of western Colorado are potentially at high risk for wildfires. In addition, the lower elevations in the foothills and east of the Continental Divide are abundant with dead, dry grasses – fuel buildup produced by last year’s snowpack – and are ready to burn. With these conditions, it only takes a few consecutive days of hot, dry weather or a careless mistake to start a wildfire.
Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service, emphasizes that fire season has already started.
"April’s wildfires in Fort Carson, Carbondale and Ordway together killed three firefighters, destroyed more than 22 homes and burned nearly 19,000 acres. Those tragedies revealed the devastation wildfires can inflict on us. Many areas throughout Colorado are dangerously dry, and we anticipate that fire danger will be above normal in some areas of the state this season," Jahnke said. "It is imperative that we all do our part to help prevent wildfires."
State and federal agencies reported that by early May 2008, more than 26,000 acres already had burned in Colorado, almost as many acres as were reported in all of 2007.
Coloradan’s can help reduce fire hazards during outdoor activities by clearing debris around campfire rings; completely extinguishing ditch burns, campfires and cigarettes; and refraining from parking vehicles in tall, dry grasses. Otherwise, embers can ignite and rekindle smoldering debris piles or nearby vegetation. Always carry a shovel and water to extinguish any fires.
Jahnke also encourages people who live in or near forests and grasslands to take steps to help reduce wildfire hazards around their homes and property by clearing excess debris, creating defensible space around their homes and following FireWise practices. For information about protecting homes and property from wildfire, visit the Colorado State Forest Service at www.csfs.colostate.edu.
The Colorado State Forest Service is an agency in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.