Afternoon storms prompt fire danger

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Summertime in the Valley means hot, dry and cloudy conditions.

“Usually by about noon time we see the showers and thunderstorms start developing,” said Meteorologist Michael Charnick, with the National Weather Service.

With those afternoon thunderstorms comes lightning. The BLM said last summer there were about 90 fires here on the Western Slope, both human and lightning caused.

"Well, the lightning strikes as it gets drier, they tend to be more receptive and we'll see more ignitions,” said Todd Ayres, with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit.

Lightning in the summer is a big fire starter.

“Locally they've been tracking over the Glade Park area and the backside of the Book Cliffs," said Ayres.

The BLM keeps close tabs on the strikes through radar.

“It shows a strike in a certain area, we can cross reference that with google earth," said Ayres.

But, just because there's lightning doesn't mean there’s a fire.

"A lot of times they will hit rock or areas that aren't vegetated," said Ayres.

Lightning can also strike and the fire won’t kick in right away.

“It will smolder for several days until we get more of a high-pressure system coming in behind it,” said Ayres.

The BLM will put crews in place if activity in an area picks up.

"Sometimes we would have to fly in with helicopters; we also have smoke jumpers we can use. A lot of them end up being hikers, where we hike into the fires," said Ayres.

Perhaps your safest bet; steer clear of spots where lightning caused fires happen the most.

"A lot of these can first be found over the mountain, that's where there is a lot of threat for lightning, cloud to ground lightning,” said Charnick.

The BLM monitors radars daily. But, if you see a strike and are concerned it doesn’t hurt to call it in. They will cross reference with other technology and determine if they need to get to it right away.

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