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Even with record snow, wildfires can still spread

Boulder saw the snowiest start to a new year on record in 2022.

BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado’s snow quickly melts away, leaving dry land ready to catch fire.

Even as Boulder saw the snowiest start to a new year on record, the NCAR Fire sparked and spread in dry terrain.

"I’m not surprised by a wildfire burning next to a pile of snow at all," said Einar Jensen, South Metro Fire Rescue Risk Reduction Specialist. "The grass under the snow isn’t going to burn, but the grass next to the snow, on a day like this, could definitely burn."

As firefighters battle the NCAR Fire, piles of snow stand near the flames. Even with all the snow we’ve seen so far this year, it doesn’t take long for the grasses to dry out.

Boulder has seen a record 75.3 inches of snow so far this year. While some of that is still on the mountainside, a couple of dry days mixed with some heat makes the fire danger go up.

"As residents of this area, as visitors to this area, it’s imperative that we realize that any time that we’re walking through a grassy ecosystem like this and our feet are crunching, this fuel is ready to burn," Jensen said. 

The snow that hadn’t melted yet helped firefighters like incident commander Mike Smith get control of the fire.

"You can still see a bunch of snow in the fire footprint. That was one of the things that was on our side," Smith said. "The snow is certainly helpful. I wish we would get more. I will take any of the moisture that Mother Nature is willing to give us."

Snow and fire, on a March day in Colorado.

"This idea that a snowstorm on a Sunday means that we have two weeks of no fire danger is ridiculous," Jensen said. "The ecosystem and our climate reacts much more quickly than that."

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