Wildfires cloud valley skies | AspenTimes.com

Wildfires cloud valley skies

Donna Gray

Wildfires to the west of the Roaring Fork Valley are spewing smoky haze into the area.Fortunately, according to Tim Foley of the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit in Grand Junction, there are no local fires.Closest to home is the Pack Trail fire 10 miles west of Meeker burning 2,798 acres. South and west of the Roaring Fork Valley are the 8,778-acre Dammeron fire near St. George, Utah, the Dry Fork fire burning 3,700 acres northwest of Vernal and the 200-acre Hay fire northwest of Grand Junction.But the really big fires pumping smoke into the sky are even farther west, in Arizona. The Edge Complex fire near Phoenix stood at 35,000 acres Thursday afternoon, and the Florida fire in southeastern Arizona was burning 23,000 acres.All of those wildfires add up to a bunch of smoke in the air.”A lot of fires are going throughout the Great Basin and Arizona,” Foley said, “And once you throw them all together … it makes for pretty sunsets.”Fire danger remains high throughout the region, Foley said.”We have fairly significant fire potential. We’re dealing with a heat wave, and we haven’t gotten into the rainy season,” he said. “We had a lot of moisture in June and good snowpack.”Although all that moisture was good for plant growth, the lush growth this spring “has come back to challenge us,” he added.Now grasses, shrubs and trees are dried out and ready to burn.We’re also going into a precarious time of year for fire starts. Foley said the weather forecast calls for moisture moving in early next week. But that’s not necessarily a blessing – at least, not right away. With the start of the monsoon season comes a week or so of dry lightning.”Generally we’ll have a week of lightning without rain, then the moisture catches up and life is good,” he said. But first, all that dry lightning is likely to spark wildfires.Foley said he tracked lightning strikes Thursday on the Uncompahgre Plateau just west of Grand Junction and in the Maroon Bells near Aspen.