Four wildfires burning on more than 130,000 acres in western Colorado could stay active for weeks with almost nothing but hot and dry weather in the forecast, fire managers warned.
The Williams Fork fire, for instance, has an estimated containment date of Oct. 31. The fire was burning on more than 6,300 acres in Grand County as of Monday afternoon.
The Grizzly Creek fire, which is burning in Glenwood Canyon and has shut down Intestate 70, isn’t expected to be contained until Sept. 1.
Marty Adell, incident manager for the more than 25,000-acre fire, on Friday said fire managers are looking at “long-term situations and conditions we will be dealing with for the next couple of weeks, for the next couple of months.”
Fuels are incredibly dry and there has been a lack of precipitation, he said. Paired with the difficult environment — steep drainages rising from the Colorado River — firefighters have a tall task.
“This fire will continue to burn for some time,” Adell said.
The Cameron Peak fire, which was burning on 13,305 acres west of Fort Collins as of Monday afternoon, is another blaze that could remain a problem for a long while.
“This will be long-duration fire,” Paul Hohn, one of the Cameron Peak fire’s incident leaders, warned on Saturday, “so please be prepared for that.”
The Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction, is the only one of the four major, active fires in the state with some level of containment. The 85,407-acre fire was 7% contained as of Monday afternoon after igniting on July 31.
The Williams Fork, Grizzly Creek and Cameron Peak fires were all listed at 0% containment as of Monday afternoon.
There have been no reports of damaged or destroyed structures or injuries from any of the four major wildfires.
“Our extended-range forecast right now is pretty persistent,” said Evan Direnzo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder. “There’s not much change in the extended forecast out to 30 days.”
Direnzo said that means more bouts of below-average precipitation and unusual heat.
The best chance for meaningful rainfall in Colorado is on Wednesday or Thursday, but Direnzo warned that those storms will be isolated. He said there is the potential for lightning without much precipitation in the coming week, which could pose a further wildfire threat.
In fact, Denver is on pace to match or even beat its record of 90 degree-plus days set in 2012, when there were 73 days at or above that threshold. That year was devastating for wildfires in Colorado.
The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed a major section of western Colorado Springs while the High Park fire in Larimer County torched more than 250 homes.
Denver has had 57 days with 90 degree-plus weather so far in 2020.
All of Colorado is under some kind of drought status, which the U.S. Drought Monitor attributes to climate change.