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What constitutes fire danger and red flag warnings

Mesa County has experienced high winds for several days along with warm temperatures and low humidity. Those variables are three out of the four conditions that need to be met to constitute a red flag warning.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 10:32 PM MDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 10:48 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - High winds over the last few days are contributing to high fire danger. But some areas such as Mesa County are not under restrictions or red flag warnings despite high winds and dry conditions. Other than a no burn advisory.

Mesa County has experienced high winds for several days along with warm temperatures and low humidity. Those variables are three out of the four conditions that need to be met to constitute a red flag warning. Winds need to be greater than 25 mph and humidity needs to be lower than 15% for three hours or longer. Which was all met Wednesday in Mesa County.

National weather service forecaster Tom Renwick explained what is missing.

“The final ingredient and that’s what we don’t have is the fuels, which means the grasses and stuff that can burn has to be critical,” said Renwick. “Since we’re still in what we call green up and if you go outside you see lots of green grass, that’s not considered critical.”

Fire prevention and mitigation specialist Patrick Kieran explained this is because Mesa County had a average snowpack this year. Which brought quite a bit of soil moisture and moisture to the live fuels in the County.

The live fuels that have moisture are less likely to spread quickly. However, once the green grass and other live fuel sources dry out in June, the County will be more likely to meet the criteria for red flag warnings.

“Those fine dead fuels is what primarily drives all of our fire,” said Kieran. “That’s what carries our fire.”

Other nearby areas such as Durango in the southwest did not get as much snowpack and therefore, did not see as much fuel or ground moisture. This made them in a critical state and constituted a red flag warning indicating high fire danger.

The high winds are likely to lighten up a little Thursday to 20 or 30 mph. They are expected to completely die down Friday to normal breezes.

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