With dry summer forecast, fires could be restricted | AspenTimes.com

With dry summer forecast, fires could be restricted

The long-range forecast for the Western Slope this summer is calling for below-average precipitation, a National Weather Service forecaster said Wednesday.

“It’s not looking as robust as it normally is,” said Andrew Lyons, a forecaster in Grand Junction. “It’s looking a little drier.”

That means fire restrictions for Pitkin County and other areas in Western Colorado could be just around the corner, said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Valerie MacDonald, the county’s emergency management director.

“I think a restriction is on the horizon,” DiSalvo said Wednesday.

Specifically, the next 30 days — when the monsoons typically begin — are looking to be hot and dry, MacDonald said. And that means fireworks displays in the area for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday may have to be curtailed, she said.

“No one wants to see them canceled,” MacDonald said. “We’ll just have to see what the weather actually does.”

DiSalvo reminded residents at the Pitkin County commissioners’ regular meeting Wednesday that all fireworks that fly into the air and “go bang” are illegal.

The weather service issued a red-flag warning from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday for most of the Western Slope, Lyons said.

“That means there’s extreme fire danger,” MacDonald said.

However, if a fire breaks out, both DiSalvo and MacDonald said Pitkin County is in a good spot to fight the flames. The sheriff said he was particularly grateful for $100,000 Pitkin County commissioners have set aside for him to use in an emergency. MacDonald urged residents to sign up for Pitkin alerts and adhere to wildfire guidelines at http://www.pitkin wildfire.com.

A large fire in western Utah continues to burn, while another near Prescott, Arizona, recently doubled in size.

Lyons said a ridge of high pressure is currently sitting over western Colorado, which is keeping skies clear and forcing weather systems to the north. That will last for at least the next week or two and possibly beyond, he said.

The three-month outlook calls for a decrease in precipitation, though it’s difficult to judge the severity of that decrease, Lyons said.

Commissioner Patti Clapper advised residents not to throw cigarettes out car windows, while DiSalvo urged caution with campfires and any flames outdoors.

The last fire ban in Pitkin County was in 2011, DiSalvo said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com


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