Weather Service sends meteorologists to fires across Colorado on fifth red flag day

By: Alison Noon
June 22, 2013 Updated: June 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

The National Weather Service dispatched incident meteorologists to three Colorado wildfires Saturday, when a red flag warning went into effect for the entire western half of the state.

Conducting hourly spot forecasts, one meteorologist will assist firefighting efforts at each of the Lime Gulch, West Fork and Wild Rose fires through the weekend.

"They're seeing the local effects and work with the local team," Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist at the service's Pueblo office, said.

A total of eight incident specialists were assigned to wildfires across the country Saturday morning, a few days after meteorologists left the Black Forest fire north of Colorado Springs and Royal Gorge fire north of Canon City.

Saturday is the city's fifth consecutive day in the service's red flag wildfire warning. Relative humidity dipped to 8 percent Wednesday, 2 percent Thursday and 3 percent Friday. Colorado Springs is expected to reach temperatures in the low-90s midday Saturday, and the plains east and south of the city could reach 100.

"There's been no release from it," Mozley said, adding that fires are likely to be ignited in the extreme conditions. "Really dry fuel status out there, it doesn't take much."

Smoke from wildfires in other parts of the state settled down in Colorado Springs Friday night, Mozley said, causing ash fall in some areas.

The service uses satellite imagery to track wildfire smoke, which showed the smoke had moved to Pueblo and Fremont counties Saturday morning.

"There's still some in the area but much less than last night," Mozley said at about 8:30 a.m.

Colorado State Patrol said the smoke was no longer a threat to visibility Saturday morning.

The smoke is expected to become heavy again in Colorado Springs as the West Fork fire flares up. Mozley said National Weather Service is tracking the smoke and weather conditions surrounding the fires.

"It's one of our big concerns," he said.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve issued fire restrictions on Saturday in response to extreme fire danger. Fires are not allowed in the park, including charcoal briquette fires. Petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns and heating devices are permitted. Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles, the Pinon Flats Campground, the picnic area, or paved or graveled parking lots.

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