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'Our risk is significant': State leaders say they're prepared for 'above average' fire season

We've already seen numerous fires, even though fire season was historically a four-month stretch in the summer months.

COLORADO, USA — On a day in April with extreme fire warnings in place, Colorado leaders said they're expecting a higher than average fire season in 2022 but that they're more prepared than ever before.

"I know our risk is significant this year and people have to do their part," said Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) Director Mike Morgan. "We're learning in harder than we have been able to do to do a better job with unwanted fires, early detection and aggressive initial attack."

One thing that helps with early detection is a multi-mission aircraft which has been used in the state since 2015. It's helped the state detect more than 600 fires that had not been reported.

"The latitude and longitude was given to local response agency, the fire was found, put out and it didn't get a name, it didn't make the news," Morgan said.

The state also adopted a preparedness level system to help them decide where to put resources. The scale ranks the fire danger from one to five with five being the extreme fire danger.

That scale was used to move resources around Friday to be in the best positions possible should any fires ignite. Two strike teams from the western slope were moved and are on standby in southeast and northeast Colorado.

The state also has two single engine airtankers (SEATS) and two Type II helicopters. A large air tanker will be available in May along with a second one later in the season. There will also be two additional helicopters.

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Historically, wildfire seasons were a four-month event in the middle of summer, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC). Now the average core wildfire season is 78 days longer than in the 1970s, with Colorado experiencing large fires every month of the year, the agency said.

According to the DFPC, 87% of fires are human caused.

Monsoonal moisture could provide some relief for the western slope in late June, Morgan said, but the Front Range is expected to see extreme drought conditions heading into July.

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So far this year, numerous fires have already been reported, and the hottest, driest months are still ahead of us.

The fire outlook was presented on a day when extreme fire danger was forecast due to the expected strong sustained wind with frequent gusts above 50 mph. There is little firefighters can do in a situation like that, other than get out of the way and fight the fire from behind while they wait for the winds to die down. 

Numerous counties have also put in temporary fire restrictions due to the fire risk.

RELATED: Meteorologists save the word 'extreme' for days like Friday

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