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Meteorologists save the word 'extreme' for days like Friday

The use of the word "extreme" to describe Friday’s fire weather conditions is meant to grab attention, but it also describes actual levels of fire risk.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Meteorologists are using the word "extreme" to describe Friday's fire weather conditions. The big difference-maker will be the wind. 

Firefighters can manage a fire on Red Flag days like we have seen this week in Colorado. With the exception of Monte Vista Wednesday afternoon, the winds have been light -- in the 10-20 mph range across the state, with gusts in the 25-40 mph range.

Those weather conditions give firefighters a chance to aggressively fight wildfires with a direct attack. They can even use aircraft to slow fires in those conditions. 

On Friday, there will be 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. 

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That is what we mean by Extreme fire weather. Even the National Weather Service is using the word Extreme in their messaging.  

“So we are generally low-key in our messaging and use the big words for the big days," said Greg Hanson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boulder. "And this is one of those big days.” 

Hanson said the use of the word Extreme to describe Friday’s fire weather conditions is meant to grab attention, but it also describes actual levels of fire risk.

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The Storm Prediction Center issues a fire weather outlook that identifies specific fire danger and puts weather conditions into categories of daily risk. The Denver metro area has only seen Extreme risk one other time in the past 12 years.

That's why the word Extreme is appropriate, and the National Weather Service offices in Colorado, including Boulder, are trying to do everything they can to get that word across. They have even been stepping up their social media campaign.

“And honestly we’ve got some new staff here," Hanson said. "We’ve got a group of young people that are a lot more tech-savvy than old guys like me, and they are really active and really good at monitoring social media and getting the responses out.” 


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