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"Ready and ripe for wildfire": Firefighters urge caution as hot, dry days continue

Though recent rain helped the Front Range, the next stretch of hot, dry days could reverse that, and also create fire danger.

COLORADO, USA — The Front Range is considered “drought free” after all our recent rain, but firefighters urge people to be careful as we enter a stretch of hot, dry days.

“We have to remember that our ecosystems are dynamic,” said Einar Jensen, a risk reduction specialist at South Metro Fire Rescue. “An ecosystem can be fire-resistant one day, and a few days later, we can have a fuel bed that’s ready to burn.”

Jensen works out of Fire Station 7, which is next to a large open space of grass.

It is green and tall from all the spring rain, but looks can be deceiving.

“As we're walking through, we can hear the dead grass crunching under our feet, so we know that is ready to burn," Jensen said. "… With a little bit of wind, a fire in a grass ecosystem like this can move rapidly."

He calls grass that can be found in many of our open spaces “one-hour fuel”, meaning even if it just got rained on, it only takes one hour for the hot sun to dry it up again.

“So with a string of hot, dry, windy days that we’re having now, and especially next week, we can expect this fuel to be ready and ripe for wildfire at any point,” he said.

This's why, despite how green everything looks right now, Jensen recommended that anyone living in the foothills or the mountains, where the air is even drier, start mitigation efforts this weekend.

Clean out rain gutters, come up with an evacuation plan and mow a strip of grass in front of the property as a “speed bump” to help slow a fire down if it is approaching the home.

“Firefighters can only engage directly with a flame that is 4-foot-long or less," he said. "If it’s more than a 4-foot-long flame, it’s no longer safe for the firefighters to engage those flames directly. So, keeping the fuels immediately around our homes as short as possible helps lower the fire behavior and gives firefighters a better chance to get involved and put out the fire before it lights up that structure."

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