In early February, Doug Fritz – the fire chief in Hotchkiss, Colorado – was called to the scene of a grass fire.

Fritz: “That’s very unusual for February. Typically that land is under snow, and it would be too moist to burn.”

Colorado sagebrush

The fire was less than two acres and was not hard to put out, but it was an early start to the fire season and a reminder of the dangers that come with drought.

Fritz says the wild land around Hotchkiss is mostly sage brush and Pinyon Juniper forests – which can become fuel for fires when conditions are hot and dry.

Tim Mathewson, fire meteorologist for the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center in Lakewood, Colorado, says Fritz is right to stay alert.

Mathewson: “Northwest Colorado is certainly an area to watch for an above average fire season. It’s been drier than average and warmer than average for the last several months.”

It’s a trend climate scientists warn is likely to continue in many areas – especially western states. While weather will change from year to year, higher temperatures and less precipitation in the coming decades are expected to contribute to longer and more severe fire seasons in Hotchkiss and other communities.

Reporting credit: Laura Krantz/iSeeChange and ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Colorado sagebrush field. Copyright protected.

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