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Rain, snow bring lower fire danger to Pikes Peak region
Fire restrictions were lifted in Teller County and Colorado Springs officials breathed a sigh of relief and lowered the city’s fire danger Monday as rain and snow fell all day.
Colorado Springs fire mitigation administrator Christina Randall said Tuesday the city’s fire danger level is at “low,” but officials remain cautious.
“It doen’t mean we’re out of danger,” Randall said. “If we move back into the high temperatures and wind events, the fire danger will move back to high.”
The area received precipitation from Sunday evening into Tuesday morning. The “long-duration moisture event" was key to lowering the fire danger level, Randall said.
“I’d rather see several hours of drizzle than a quick downpour,” she said, noting that quick rains tend to run off fast while extended precipitation gives plants time to soak up the water, even if the total is low.
Colorado Springs received more than a third of an inch of rain on Monday, pushing the month’s tally (0.35 inches) to near normal levels, according to the National Weather Service.
Randall said her department measured moisture levels in area vegetation late last week and found the plants about 20 percent drier than the city would like. That could change, however, if the moisture keeps coming.
The weather service expects more rain for Colorado Springs as the weekend nears. After dry, warm conditions Wednesday and Thursday, a 30 percent chance of rain is predicted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Steven Steed, of the Teller County Office of Emergency Management, said officials in the higher elevations west of Colorado Springs are optimistic about the recent and expected moisture as the 10th anniversary of the Hayman fire arrives in early June.
Afternoon storms are expected to hit the entire county each day through Sunday. The northwest part of the county was ravaged by the Hayman blaze that burned 138,000 acres and destroyed more than 130 homes in June and July of 2002. Some small fires ignited this spring, including one in the Hayman burn scar near Westcreek, and have had fire crews on high alert.
Teller County had been subject to an open fire ban, even for those with burn permits, Steed said. But Monday morning Steed’s office lifted restrictions because of elevated humidity levels as a result of up to seven inches of snow fell.
Teller humidity levels were about 50 percent Monday and were lingering around 40 percent on Tuesday.
Steed said people with permits are now allowed to burn, but must call the county when they ignite a fire and make another call when it has been put out. Permitted burners also are required to be on scene at the fire and have proper capability to extinguish the fire.
Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.