JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – With forecasts calling for temperatures in the high 90s and 100s this week, firefighters are urging people in the Denver metro area to be cautious. Fire risk is expected to be high as the weather gets hotter and abundant fuels dry out.
After a spring filled with many rainstorms, parks and open spaces around the state are lush with vegetation. At Crown Hill Park in Wheat Ridge, the native grass was waist-high in many spots Sunday.
"We were given a lot of moisture this spring with the early rains, spring rains, and that created a lot of growth," said Ct. Tyler Sugaski with West Metro Fire Rescue.
Soon that vegetation will begin to dry out and become potential fuel for fires, as a heat wave makes its way into Colorado this week.
"When we look at weeks, especially upon weeks of dry, warm temperatures, those light fuels really start to become available to burn and that's what concerns us.
Sugaski calls them "one-hour fuels" because after moisture they take only an hour to dry out. He says they're currently the number one contributor to fire spread.
"Once they become dry and available, it really takes a very small spark," Sugaski said. "A hot, dry day with a little bit of wind will make rapid growth for fire behavior."
This week's excessive heat comes as just across the county, crews are already fighting the Platte River Fire. On Sunday, the fire was 50% contained and evacuations have been lifted
"The drier and hotter it is, the more fuels become available, so that affects fire spread and our containment efforts," Sugaski said.
Sugaski said the risk of fires can be decreased if everyone takes part in mitigation efforts, including clearing gutters, mowing down grass, and moving debris. It's also important to follow local fire ordinances while recreating.
He says our actions are just as important, as growth and a changing climate mean increasing wildfire risk is here to stay.
"It's that time of year where we all need to step up and start thinking in our heads, 'What's next? How are my actions affecting the environment?'" he said.
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