At the bimonthly Summit County Wildfire Council meeting last Thursday, officials announced that this year has been the “Third driest winter on record” in Colorado, reports Summit Daily.
Troy Wineland, the water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, offered that grim seasonal assessment to the Wildfire Council made up of representatives from the Summit County government, local fire protection districts, as well as the U.S. and Colorado Forest services.
“What really stands out to me is how snow-bare places like Green Mountain are,” Wineland said. “It’s just bare. That really gives me pause.”
Wineland referred to the lack of snow on most slopes at lower elevations in the mountains. It is a troubling sign, he said, that there has been so little snow that bare ground seems to be showing everywhere in March, with no snowmelt stored up for when water use starts to really pick up.
In Summit County, home to Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, snowpack is at a relatively healthy 88 percent of average. However, Wineland noted that in southern Colorado, some places are seeing 60 to even 30 percent of average snowpack. Wineland then dropped the sobering bombshell that offered the best insight into the danger presented by this upcoming wildfire season.
“2002 and 2012 were Colorado’s driest winters on record,” Wineland said, “and this will be Colorado’s third driest winter on record.”
Matt Benedict, a captain in the Red, White, and Blue Fire District over in Breckenridge, urged the council members to go back to their districts and communities and start dealing with the reality of “receptive fuel beds” across the High Country.
“We’re starting to train firefighters early,” Benedict said. “We want to start talking to the public early. Please, please, talk to homeowners and ask them to start preparing their land with chipping and moisture control.”
Regardless of the amount of preparation, resources will still be stretched and all members of the public are reminded to be vigilant of signs of wildfire, as well as doing their own part to prevent forest fires. Campfires need to be put out properly, no fireworks, no lit cigarette butts.
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When did “the record” start? 1979?