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Officials warn of wildfire danger in populated areas

Hot, dry weather increases the threat


Wildfires have become as much a part of Colorado summers as the blossoming of columbines along the Front Range, and 2017 is no different.

“We’re on par for another busy year,” said Eric Hurst, public information officer for South Metro Fire Rescue. “The numbers are definitely up.”

Area residents paying attention to recent wildfires on the Front Range — like the Peak 2 fire in Breckenridge or last year’s Chatridge fire in Highlands Ranch — know that wildfires can hit close to home with little warning.

“A lot of people think they don’t have an issue because they don’t live up in the mountains, but that’s not the case,” said Jay Jackson, assistant chief of West Metro Fire Rescue and head of its Wildland Fire Division. “We have a lot of open fields, greenways, open spaces. All of those things are as likely to be impacted by fire as a forest is.”

Jackson said West Metro recently dispatched firefighters and engines to the Peekaboo fire — about 50 miles west of Craig — as well as other areas of Colorado and Arizona. Hurst said South Metro has dispatched firefighters 10 times this year to help control wildfires, six times in the metro area and four times to battle blazes in other areas of Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Though wildfires tend to occur in the fall, as humidity decreases and vegetation dries up, Hurst stressed that wildfires can ignite whenever dry conditions combine with a heat source, even seemingly harmless ones. A recent Cherry Hills fire started when a man was mowing his lawn to eliminate dry grass, and heat from the riding lawn mower ignited the yard.

“It’s not always malicious behavior or even careless behavior,” Hurst said. “Anything that causes heat, sparks or a flame can cause a fire. If someone is engaging in any of those activities, we ask them not only to be cautious, but to have water or another fire-suppression device on hand.”

Jackson agreed with Hurst, adding that firefighters and online resources can help homeowners living in the urban/wildland interface assess their property’s level of safety, but it’s ultimately up to them to take responsibility and make sure their home is as safe from fire as possible.

“When a fire comes pushing down on a house, it’s not the time to turn the sprinklers on,” he said.


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