Last updated 11:10PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Wildfire Prevention & Preparedness Part 1
(2007-04-16)
Smoke rises from Durango Mountain Park and a wildfire that burned 4 acres on May 20, 2006. (Photo: Victor Locke, KSUT)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Wildfire is the greatest natural disaster threat in Southwest Colorado.
April is Wildfire Prevention and Education Month.
As a co-sponsor of local events marking the month, KSUT is presenting information on various aspects of wildfire all this week at 11am and 2:30 pm, as well as during local news Today and Friday.
We begin our week long coverage, with this report from KSUT's Victor Locke, on this seasons wildfire forecast for Southwest Colorado.

KNOWLTON: SHORT STORY, IT LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW THE EXPERTS ARE TELLING US THAT WE CAN SEE BELOW AVERAGE PRECIPITATION AND HIGHER THAN NORMAL EARLY SUMMERTIME TEMPERATURES.
Butch Knowlton is Director of the La Plata Office of Emergency Management.
KLATT: WE'RE STILL IN SOMEWHAT OF A DROUGHT CONDITION ALTHOUGH NOT NEARLY AS SEVERE AS WE WERE IN THE EARLY 2000 YEARS.
As fire management officer for the Columbine District office of the Forest Service, Ron Klatt watches forecasts closely.
If fire breaks out, chances are he'll be one on the frontline.
FARNSWORTH: WE WOULD SAY NOW NORMAL TO ABOVE NORMAL ON OUR FIRE SEASON ACTIVITY. BASED ON THE CURRENT WEATHER PATTERNS, WE'RE LOOKING FOR PROBABLY A LITTLE ABOVE NORMAL ACTIVITY NOW.
Allen Farnsworth is a fire mitigation and education specialist for the San Juan Public Lands Office.
These three men, backed by an army of fire and forest officials across Southwest Colorado keep a close eye on forest and weather conditions year round, but especially this time of the year, the wildfire season.
What they're seeing indicates 2007 could be an active year for wildfire.
Klatt says disappointing winter moisture combined with above average temperatures could mean trouble.
KLATT: WE'VE SEEN TEMPERATURES THAT HAVE BEEN ANYWHERE FROM TEN TO TWENTY DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL FOR EACH DAY, THE HIGHS EACH DAY. LAST YEAR IN MAY FOR EXAMPLE, WE SAW TEMPERATURES THAT WERE TEN TO FIFTEEN DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL FOR THAT DATE, ALL DURING THE MONTH OF MAY, AND SO WHEN THAT HAPPENS IT REALLY STARTS OUR SUMMER EARLIER THAN IT USED TO BE. SO THAT TENDS TO MAKE OUR FIRE SEASON WORSE EVERY YEAR, JUST THE ADDITIONAL TEMPERATURE INCREASE IN THE SPRING.
Just what can be considered "normal" fire activity.
Consider these statistics: across the 7 Southwest Colorado Counties, La Plata, Archuleta, Dolores, Hinsdale, Mineral, Montezuma, San Juan, served by the Durango Fire Dispatch Center, there were 381 wildfires last year.
That's up from 297 wildfires in 2005 but down from 462 in 2004.
The number of fires and their size is determined by factors mostly beyond human control.
What can be controlled is how and what those fires burn.
Fire is a way forests way to rejuvenate themselves.
Klatt says that's why prescribed burns to clean the forest floor are helpful.
Several such burns are planned this season, including burns of several thousand acres north and west of Durango.
KLATT: IT REALLY DOES PUT FIRE ON THE LANDSCAPE IN A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT SO THAT IF ANOTHER FIRE, THEN A WILDFIRE, LATER IN THE SUMMER OR SOME OTHER YEAR HAPPENS TO BURN IT WOULD RUN INTO ONE OF THESE PLACES AND THEREFORE BE EASIER FOR US TO CONTAIN AND ALSO DO LESS DAMAGE.
(Nat Sound)
Even close to Durango Richard Brown, recently supervised an 8 person Southwest Conservation Corps Crew which spent two weeks doing fire mitigation work in Durango Mountain Park, the scene of a early wildfire last spring.
BROWN: WE'RE ONLY TRYING TO LEAVE THE GAMBLE OAK AND WE'RE TAKING THE MOUNTAIN MAHOGANEY AND THE LITTLE BRUSH ON THE GROUND, BASICALLY THE STUFF THAT WILL BURN HOT, GETTING RID OF IT. WE'VE CLEARED ABOUT 750-FEET AND THAT'S ABOUT A 45-FOOT WIDE SPAN THAT THAT GOES, IT'S A HORSESHOE BACK AROUND THIS AREA. WE'RE CREATING A BLOCK SO IF THE FIRE'S COMING HOT, COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN, IT'S GOING TO GET TO A SPOT WHERE IT'S NOT GOING TO BURN AS HOT, SO WE'RE PROTECTING THE HOUSES BEHIND US HERE.
Despite all these efforts, wildfires are going to occur.
With a forecast of normal to above normal fire activity this year, Knowlton says it's up to everyone to do their part to stop wildfire.
KNOWLTON: BE SMART. WATCH THE OPEN BURNING PROCESSES THAT GO ON WITHIN THE COMMUNITY. JUST BE AWARE.
You can find out more about local programs dealing with wildfire, by going to the Southwest Colorado Fire Information Clearinghouse, online, at southwestcoloradofires.org.
From KSUT, Four Corner's Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.

In our next report, Tomorrow at 11 am and 2:30 pm, we'll tell you how a neighborhood fire ambassadors program is growing, and how you can become involved.
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