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CalWood Fire and Lefthand Canyon Fire: Sunday snow could help firefighters gain more ground

Red flag warning in place Saturday

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The sudden change in the weather forecast over the weekend will see firefighters battling the CalWood and Lefthand Canyon fires pivoting from a dry, windy weather Saturday to snow and freezing temperatures on Sunday.

In the end, Boyd Lebeda, a fire behavior analyst, said Sunday’s cold weather could give firefighters a chance to work closer in to the fire.

Greg Murdoch, the incident meteorologist for Rocky Mountain Incident Team Black, said Saturday will bring red flag conditions, which means there is an increased fire risk.

“We’re looking for west winds to increase with gusts to 35-50 mph.”

Lebeda said the wind will feed the fires, and give them enhanced ability to move.

“Last Saturday, when the CalWood fire started, it was a very windy, dry, sunny day,” he said. “Those are the ingredients that moved the fire like it did,” he said.

However, he said the fire lines and other suppression techniques fire crews have used over the past week will make it harder for the fire to move, even if winds increase as forecast.

Later in the weekend, the wind will die down and the temperatures will drop, according to Murdoch.

Evan Direnzo, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said that this cold snap will last for about a week. The temperatures will drop enough that the forecast for Boulder even holds snow.

“The snow is going to occur between late Saturday and early Monday,” Direnzo said. “Right now we’re thinking six to eleven inches in Boulder.”

Sunday is expected to be the coldest day of the weekend, and the temperature could drop to eight degrees Fahrenheit.

This change in weather could help firefighters close in on the fires, Lebeda said.

“When we get the wind to die down, and then we get some moisture, it’s an opportunity for them to not be exposed to such intense flame and intense heat, and they can get much closer to the fire,” he said. “They can get right in up next to the black, burning edge of the fire and dig lines, remove all of the available fuel, and then (extinguish) that edge.”

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