The fire danger is high across much of Colorado partly because of a dry air mass in place across most areas of the Southwest.
The dry weather combined with warm weather and expected strong winds led to the posting of red-flag warnings south of the Palmer Divide and across southern and northwestern Colorado on Monday. Fire danger also is high in New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.
In La Plata County, Monday was the fourth day with a red-flag warning in less than a week. Tuesday, too, was upgraded to a red-flag warning.
All burning permits for the day are suspended when a red-flag warning is in effect, said Karola Hanks, fire marshal for the Durango Fire Protection District.
“On Wednesday, a cold front will come through bringing lower temperatures, which generally means a rise in relative humidity,” said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service. “Unfortunately, the southern San Juan Mountains are on the cusp, so Durango, Pagosa Springs and Cortez may still need a red-flag warning.”
While the cold front may bring moisture to the northern San Juans, Ramey said it was doubtful Southwest Colorado would see any precipitation. Another storm may be coming though, beginning Saturday night.
“One of my models say you’ll do quite well from this front, and another says you’ll get nothing,” Ramey said. “Our models know more what to expect in the dead of winter or height of summer. But in the shoulder seasons, when there’s a mix of winter but also a summer component, they’re all a little different.”
The longer-term spring forecast still is looking good, Ramey said, although the snowpack, which was at 54 percent of a rolling 30-year average at the end of last week, is troubling.
This year’s snowpack is rivaling 2002, the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire, he said.
“The Climate Prediction Center continues to say April, May and June will be wetter than normal for Southwest Colorado, but as we see storm after storm march through and miss you, it’s getting worrisome.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.