Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't let it come up behind you

Listen now to all the fire precautions

 

By Rob Carrigan, rob.carrigan@pikespeaknewspapers.com


Weather helped moderate wildfire activity by midweek on Wednesday, when I looked at the National Interagency Fire Center’s statistics across the country.

Despite that, there were still 37 large fires burning across the West, three here in Colorado, but only one new one (reported in Utah). By their definition, a large incident is a wildfire of 100 acres or more occurring in timber, or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass or sage.

In the meantime, the debate raged over use of Colorado Springs-based supertanker created Boeing 747 converted from a passenger jet into a firefighting air tanker. The company that owns the tanker says the U.S. Forest Service sought to keep the plane grounded by offering a contract limiting firefighting aircraft to 5,000 gallons of fire suppressant. They filed a complaint saying the practice was putting homes and lives at risk just as the current wildfire season ticked ahead of a 10-year average for land area burned.

The Colorado Department of Public Health was still warning us that the numerous fires that had popped up in the last few weeks in the Western United States, could still become an air quality problem, and emphasized the importance of their efforts to monitor various types of pollutants in the air including the key PM2.5 pollutant, made up of microscopic particles created when a wildfire burns, and those particles become suspended.

“During wildfires, the team also sometimes works with the U.S. Forest Service to deploy mobile monitors in areas where they expect the greatest smoke impacts,” said release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Currently, most of the fires in Colorado are not producing much in the way of smoke,” said Scott Landes, supervisor of the Meteorology and Prescribed Fire Unit in the division. “We are entering a period where we are expecting more rain across the state as well, which is certainly a good thing in keeping the smoke down.” But he did warn of an increased threat from thunderstorms that might start new fires with lightening strikes.

If you encounter heavy smoke, the agency advises you to remain indoors with the windows and doors shut.

“If you live within an area with high levels of smoke in the air, you can determine if the levels are unhealthy by focusing on a landmark five miles away. “If you can no longer see that landmark, the air is unhealthy to breathe,” Landes says.

Locally, Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District reminded us that “in fire-prone areas, homeowners have a duty to cut down surrounding trees,” and in Woodland Park man reported “Dang, sitting in my living room lightning comes through the window and hits my foot. The tree in front of the house is splintered, all my LED bulbs are out. Feeling grateful!” Donald Wescott Fire Protection District recently posted a flyer about “the 7 ways residents can reduce the risk that homes and property will become fuel for a wildfire.” And Divide Colorado Fire Protection District noted that “Just a reminder that you can take slash to the CUSP Divide Slash Site. Fridays', Saturdays' and Sundays 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. May through October.”

All this, is good advice and information of course, as we go through the fire season.

“Very hot conditions are expected across the majority of the Lower 48 as the thermal ridge of high pressure expands laterally from coast to coast and intensifies. Monsoonal moisture moving northward along the back side of the high pressure ridge will continue to produce scattered wet convection along the Rocky Mountain Crest,” says National Interagency Fire Center.

Still, there already has been 35,154 large fires already recorded in the Western U.S., burning nearly 4,5 million acres in 2017.

And as noted expert on fire behavior Tom Watson says, “With a structure fire you know where your flames are, but in the woods it can move anywhere; it can come right up behind you..”

We need to listen to all the precautions.

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