Critical fire conditions in the southwestern corner of Colorado, including the city of Cortez, have led the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Durango is just north of the boundary for the area covered by the red flag warning.
A red flag warning means critical weather conditions are occurring – a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, dry fuels and warm temperatures – that can lead to extreme fire behavior, said Matt Aleska, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Although clear skies and no rain are in the forecast for the next five days in the Four Corners, Aleska said red flag warnings are unlikely later in the week.
Beginning Monday and extending through the week, a high pressure system is moving over Southwest Colorado, which will decrease the speed of the winds, and a forecast of gusts of at least 30 mph for at least three hours is required to call a red flag warning.
“There’s a cold front that’s moving through to the north right now, and that’s bringing stronger winds aloft that are mixing down to the surface in Southwest Colorado,” Aleska said. “That’s causing conditions to be right for a red flag warning (on Sunday). But once that front moves through and exits (Sunday night) then (Monday), high pressure is going to be building, and the winds are going to be lessening,” he said.
Aleska said a red flag warning is called based four factors: the moisture level of fuels in the region, a prediction that relative humidity will be at 15% or below for three hours, winds that will gust up to 30 mph for at least three hours, and warm temperatures that will extend the drying of fuels.