Unseasonably warm temperatures, stubbornly dry weather and predictions that the rest of the winter will be more of the same have county fire officials weighing burn restrictions.
Jay Stalnacker, Boulder County Sheriff's Office fire management officer, said Thursday that he and other regional fire safety officials are worried about dire fire conditions during the winter months, when regional and federal resources to fight wildland fires are largely mothballed for the off-season.
"It is pretty precarious," he said.
November logged three red-flag days, which is alarming for fire officials.
"Even if we do get some snow, it is going to be irrelevant," Stalnacker said, adding that making up for such a warm and dry November is a tall order and any snowfall might embolden some residents to burn without an open burning permit even though conditions have not changed.
In fact, he said the county has been overwhelmed with open burning permit applications. Some, he said, are for agricultural reasons, but others want to burn slash piles from fuel mitigation projects earlier in the year.
"I imagine we will be looking at possible restrictions in the next few days," Stalnacker said.
He said windy periods are likely through the winter and could drive any fires. While lightning isn't much of a fear, he said, humans could easily spark a blaze with an errant cigarette butt, a car fire or even an intentionally set fire that gets out of control.
Meteorologists had predicted that a developing El Niño pattern would bring more snow to Colorado this fall, but that weather pattern dissipated, leaving neutral conditions in the South Pacific.
Boulder only received 0.8 inches of snow in November, compared to an average of a foot of snow, Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said.
This month is the third least snowy November since 1948, Kelsch said. Boulder records go back farther, but there are years with missing data, making accurate comparisons beyond 1948 difficult.
No snow fell at all in this month in 1949 and 1984.
Boulder is also well behind for the fall snow season. Normally, Boulder would have received 20 inches of snow by this time in the season. This year, only 8.6 inches have fallen, most of that in one storm in October.
It's also been warmer than average, Kelsch said. This November will be either the third or fourth warmest November since 1984.
The average temperature in November in Boulder is a little higher than degrees. This November, the average is 46 degrees.
Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer contributed to this report.