Despite floodwaters soaking Boulder County last fall, the springtime wildland fire conditions are just about average and fire officials are keeping an eye on grasses expected to thrive ahead of the summer months.
"Fire activity isn't anything too concerning right now," said Boulder County fire management officer Jay Stalnacker.
The U.S. Forest Service led the fight on a small brush fire on Sunday that burned about 3.6 acres near Nederland.
"A different time of year, different conditions and that would have been a devastating fire," he said.
Stalnacker said Boulder County is well positioned this year to respond to wildland fires, especially with broader partnerships that beefed up air response. County officials and private landowners have been taking advantage of cooler springtime temperatures to conduct prescribed burns to reduce wildland fire fuels.
He said fire officials are keeping a close eye on grasses enjoying springtime conditions.
"We are seeing significant growth of our grasses," he said. "That could be of great concern come June."
By summer, Stalnacker said, some of those grasses could be thick and tall, providing fuel for fires.
The flood also changed the landscape for both fire response and residents in Boulder County's mountains. Stalnacker noted that road conditions still aren't back to pre-flood standards in some areas and may not be ready to handle large fire trucks or other emergency vehicles.
"Even homeowners who lived a lifetime in a certain area will be surprised when they try to head out a certain way or think a fire wont burn a certain way," Stalnacker said.
Flood debris isn't an immediate concern for fire management officials, but it could be down the line, Stalnacker said. The waters changed the landscape and rearranged fuels, which fire officials will have to consider when fighting any wildland fires this season.
Longmont Firefighter Mike Connolly, the city wildland team training coordinator, said areas like Longmont face challenges with urban-rural interfaces. That means small wildland fires can quickly threaten a structure. He said residents should take extra care during the fire to avoid accidental fires, like taking extra care to extinguish grills and properly dispose of cigarette butts.
"It is pretty rare that we have an outdoor fire started in town from lightning," he said.
Contact Times-Call staff writer Pierrette J. Shields at 303-684-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org