Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Western Wildfires

Yesterday, target shooters sparked a wildfire near Centerville, Utah.  ABC-4.com reports that the fire is now 80% contained, and let's hope it is quickly put out as fire-weather conditions will only get worse over the next few days as temperatures climb.

This is the second fire to be sparked by target shooting in northern Utah in the past two weeks.  It is fortunate that conditions last night were cool, fairly calm, and not conducive to extreme wildfire behavior as the fire was very near residences near Centerville.  Want to target shoot?  Take advantage of indoor and outdoor shooting ranges along the Wasatch Front.  Wildfires this year are simply too easily sparked.  

Meanwhile, things are nasty in the mountains west of Fort Collins where the High Park Fire is raging.   Reports are that flames have been crowning at 300 feet.  Here's the coverage from the Denver Post.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports this morning that the fire is 41,000 acres in size and 0% contained.  A remarkable view of the smoke from the fire was provided yesterday from the MODIS imager on NASA's Terra satellite. 

Here's a closeup.

The MesoWest group here at the University of Utah has some nice tools for monitoring the weather near fires.  Here's a look at the latest surface map, which shows generally light winds at the moment in the area around the fire.  

Although that's good news, wildfire behavior typically becomes more severe during the day as winds increase, temperatures rise, the the relative humidity drops.  For example, although winds are light at the Redstone mesonet site at the south edge of the fire this morning, yesterday during they day they were gusting to 22 miles per hour.  

Thus, fire conditions will worsen during the day today.  Nevertheless, they could be worse.  The Front Range is well known for strong winds.  For example, a monthly time series from Redstone shows 7 or 8 periods with gusts over 24 miles per hour and one with gusts over 40.  

Let's hope they can get a handle on this fire before the weather worsens.  

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