A red flag warning is in effect for Southwest Colorado from noon to 10 p.m. Monday as strong winds, coupled with extremely dry conditions, pose critical fire danger for the region.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction says strong southwest winds are expected across much of western Colorado and eastern Utah starting Monday afternoon and lasting until the evening.
“A combination of low relative humidity, strong wind gusts and dry fuels will result in critical fire weather conditions across Colorado,” the NWS said.
Winds during this time are expected to be around 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Monday has a high temperature near 66 degrees. Relative humidity is expected to hover around 6 to 11 percent.
As a result, the NWS said, “new fires may be difficult or impossible to control due to fast rates of spread. Outdoor burning is strongly discouraged.”
These strong winds are ahead of a cold front that’s set to move into the region Tuesday, which will cause temperatures to drop.
On Tuesday, there’s an expected high of 50 degrees, with breezy conditions picking up in the afternoon. Wind gusts could get as high as 35 mph, the NWS said.
The rest of the week is expected to be sunny and mostly clear, with daytime highs ranging between 55 to 65 degrees. No precipitation is in the forecast in Durango for the rest of the week, according to the NWS.
In higher elevations around the San Juan Mountains, however, there is a slight chance for some snow Tuesday afternoon, and again Thursday night into Friday, the NWS reports.
Last Friday’s storm dropped a modest amount of snowfall around the southern San Juans. Along U.S. Highway 550 from Red Mountain Pass to Ouray, snow stations show 6 to 9 inches of new snow.
It’s unclear if restrictions against open burns in La Plata County will be enacted for Monday. Calls to Durango Fire spokesman Scot Davis were not immediately returned.
However, the department said in an announcement last week that local fire protection districts are implementing “No Burn Days” at any time in response to projected or actual high winds.
“No Burn Days” means anyone with an open burn permit can no longer burn. People with agricultural land (who don’t need permits) are still allowed to burn but are strongly encouraged to hold off until weather conditions change.
“While we want to respect the need and right to have controlled burning within our county, we have to firmly intercede due to the fast-moving fires that we have been experiencing when wind speeds increase,” Davis said last week.
The agencies include Durango Fire, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, Fort Lewis Mesa fire, Los Piños Fire District, La Plata County and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.