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Fire danger will linger through Monday in Pikes Peak region

By: Alison Noon alison.noon@gazette.com
May 26, 2013 Updated: May 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm
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Fire season snuck into southern Colorado this weekend while people were busy grilling the first hot dogs of unofficial summer.

For the third day in a row, National Weather Service in Pueblo issued a Red Flag fire warning Sunday in El Paso and Teller counties.

Warnings are calculated on a day-to-day basis and based on wind and humidity conditions. As summer rolls in and temperatures rise, weather service meteorologist Patrick Cioffi said, relative humidity drops.

"It's getting to be that season," Randy Gray, another meteorologist for the service, said. "We're going to probably be seeing a few more frequent red flag warnings."

Cioffi expected Monday and Tuesday to be warning days as well, mainly due to a lack of humidity, or dry air.

When winds are moving at least 25 miles per hour and relative humidity is 15 percent or lower for three hours, the National Weather Service issues the warning.

At noon on Sunday, Colorado Springs was at seven percent humidity.

In Teller County, officials declared an open burn restriction when the warning came into play. Teller County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Marc Porcelli said it applies to anything larger than a campfire.

Colorado Springs is under no fire restrictions other than a long-term fireworks ban, Colorado Springs Fire Department spokeswoman Sunny Smaldino said.

The risk of wildfire, she said, is not dependent on weather conditions alone.

The red flag warning pertains only to weather and does not consider how dry and flammable ground debris is. Smaldino said the city will begin testing the moisture levels of those ground fuels yet this year as needles and other debris dry out.

She and Porcelli agreed the warning is a precaution.

"Some of the biggest fires in history in Colorado Springs started in January," Smaldino said. "This is not just something that pops up when it's dry, windy and warm."

Porcelli said that the warning shouldn't affect people's holiday weekend.

"I think barbecues are okay as long as they have control of their fire," he said.

Since campers are often wildfire culprits, Porcelli said, if anyone, they should take extra care and always have a fire deterrent.

"A shovel should be available in case they need to throw dirt on it," he said. "That works just as well as water."

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