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Colorado wildfire demonstrates the end of ‘wildfire seasons,’ beginning of year-round fire

Wildfire smoke rises above a hillside
Madelyn Beck
Mountain West News Bureau
A wildfire burning in Utah in 2021.

News Brief

A seasonal break from wildfires is disappearing in the West.

A fire in northern Colorado last weekend forced thousands of evacuations less than three months after that area’s last major blaze.

The NCAR fire, which started near Boulder on Saturday, came within a few hundred yards of homes at one point. There were even still snow patches on the ground, but the fire just burned around them.

Local crews were fast to respond and keep it from burning down homes or injuring residents. But it reminded many that just a few months ago, the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Brian Oliver, an incident commander working on the latest fire around Boulder, gave a media briefing on Monday.

“It’s March. This isn’t fire season, per se, and we just had a 200-acre fire. So really the concern is any time there’s not snow, it’s fire,” he said.

Instead of fire seasons, experts say we now just have fire years.

“Historically, we really wouldn’t see a lot of large, extreme fire activity year-round,” said Jessica Gardetto. She’s a spokesperson with the National Interagency Wildfire Center, which coordinates firefighting agencies and fire information.

“But now in the West, especially in some states like Colorado, we’re seeing these large, threatening wildfires that are occurring in January, sometimes around Christmas, which was historically just not possible.”

Gardetto added that the vast majority of the wildfires are human-caused, so even when spring camping or recreating, use extreme caution.

Meteorologists predict drought and warmer weather persisting around the West this spring. Wildfire forecasts also show areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming having higher-than-average wildfire risks over the next few months.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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