Aspen sees a dry June but no high fire danger
July 2, 2011
ASPEN – After a cold, wet spring, Aspen basked in a gloriously dry and sunny June.
Despite the first afternoon monsoons of the season, on Wednesday and Thursday, Aspen saw just 0.8 inches of rainfall during June, according to data the city’s Water Department compiled. The average for the month is 1.26 inches, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction. The record for June precipitation – 4.35 inches – was set in 1984.
No snowfall was recorded at the water plant in June, but fresh snow was visible in the surrounding mountains on the morning of June 20, the Water Department’s June report notes.
The average temperature in Aspen for the month was 57.2 degrees, which was close to last year’s average of 58.3 degrees, the department noted.
The final two days of the month were the warmest, at 82 degrees, but no records were set, according to the National Weather Service. Aspen logged temperatures of 86 and 87 degrees on the final two days in June 1990, setting records for those dates.
Despite the dry month, the winter that lingered well into spring has left the mountains surrounding town lush and green heading into the heat of the summer, according to Ed VanWalraven, Aspen fire marshal.
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In some years, dry conditions by July 4 force local sheriffs to enact burning restrictions and put fireworks displays in jeopardy. Not this year.
“The fuels still have quite a bit of moisture content. At this altitude, we’re OK,” VanWalraven said Friday. “We’ve been keeping an eye on it for the last two, two and a half weeks. We’ve got a pretty good comfort level.”
The Forest Service rated the fire danger as moderate on its sign, just east of town, on Friday.
Snow still lingers at the higher elevations in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, but national forests and counties along Colorado’s Front Range and eastern plains recently began banning outside fires and fireworks as hot, dry weather kept the fire danger high.
A ban on all campfires in the Pike and San Isabel national forests kicked in Thursday, and Boulder County banned all open burning and fireworks in the mountains. Stoves that use liquid or gas fuel and fires in most developed campgrounds in Boulder County will be allowed.
Boulder County has been the site of several recent wildfires sparked by lightening strikes.
On the Western Slope, the Bureau of Land Management urged caution with fireworks and campfires at lower elevations in the Colorado River Valley heading into the holiday weekend.
“Conditions are not so extreme [as] to warrant restrictions on campfires on public land, but the danger is growing, and we could easily have wildfires this weekend if people aren’t careful,” Bill Hahnenberg, fire management officer for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, said in a press release.
Higher elevations won’t be free from risk either, said the BLM, noting the Gulch Fire near Keystone, which burned 16 acres and threatened residences several weeks ago. That fire burned above 9,000 feet, around large snowfields.
The forecast for Aspen calls for mostly sunny skies with a high near 83 today. The National Weather Service is calling for a 20 percent chance of afternoon showers starting Sunday and extending into next week, with daily highs in the low 80s.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.