National Weather Service issues fire warning for western Colorado |

National Weather Service issues fire warning for western Colorado

Mike McCollum

A sign outside the Routt County Sheriff's Office indicates the fire danger is "very high" Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Routt County despite the chance for rain in the next few days.

— A red flag warning was issued Thursday for Routt County, despite a Fourth of July afternoon thunderstorm and the chance of more rain in the next few days.

A red flag warning means conditions are ripe for wildfire. The warning was issued by the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction forecast office after a weather system rolled into eastern Utah and western Colorado with dry lightning, hot temperatures and low relative humidity.

Other Colorado counties placed under the warning were Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Pitkin and Eagle.

Routt National Forest officials said the Buffalo Park fire was 100 percent contained Thursday. The fire, which is south of Rabbit Ears Pass in Grand County, has burned about 16 acres since it flared up Sunday. About 20 Forest Service firefighters and five engines have been working to contain the fire.

“We are just in the mop-up stage now,” said Lee Duerksen, a visitor information official at the U.S. Forest Service’s Yampa ranger district. “The crew is out there in Buffalo Park because they are expecting some dry lightning and to be prepared in case something popped up out there.”

Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said the warning is brought on by the existence of “critical fire weather conditions” creating “explosive fire growth potential.”

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“So far it’s status quo in Routt County,” said Vale, who added crews with the Oak Creek and Yampa fire protection district have a 10-acre fire near Toponas contained.

Vale said he will ask Routt County commissioners Monday to implement a fire ban, while Duerksen said the Forest Service will be putting a fire ban into effect “soon,” but didn’t know exactly when or how strict the ban would be.

Vale said no fireworks-related fires popped up Thursday after Fourth of July celebrations.

Paul Frisbie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the anticipated thunderstorms will produce some rain, but not enough to keep a forest fire in check.

Frisbie said Steamboat received .03 inches of rain during Wednesday’s shower. “It wasn’t enough to make a difference,” he said.

Vale said the fire danger in Routt County was upgraded to “very high” Thursday and will stay so until significant rainfall accumulates.

Frisbie said the National Weather Service expects isolated showers and thunderstorms in Steamboat for the next seven days, but he noted rainfall will be “spotty” at best.

“It’s not what we consider wetting rain,” he said.

Temperatures are forecasted to be near 90 degrees through next week.