Fire season delayed by damp weather

RBC I Usually a delay means something is wrong, but good news arrived with the abundance of precipitation in May, meaning that the fire season in the White River Basin will likely be delayed from the earlier-predicted June start to at least July or August.
“We had very, very substantial snows and rain in the White River drainage — at least the eastern portion — during May,” said Ken Coffin, the district ranger for the Blanco District of the U.S. Forest Service. “We still have lots of snow at the higher elevations, and I expect that melt-off to continue for quite a while yet.
“We are still projected to have warmer-than-normal summer temperatures, and that will certainly increase the earlier runoff,” he said. “The streamflows I have seen look good — a heck of a lot better than this time last year.
“We know there are still several feet of snow at the higher altitudes, and that is a good sign for the forests and the run-off because we have certainly needed the precipitation,” he said.
Regarding the western portion of the White River drainage, the Bureau of Land Management Area Manager Kent Walter was unavailable for comment.
Chris Joyner with BLM in Denver said that while he is not familiar with the numbers in the lower White River Basin, he said that all parts of Northwest Colorado are in considerably better condition than they were in 2012.
“We figure precipitation percentages differently because we don’t have any snowfall monitors in western Rio Blanco County,” Joyner said.
“We take dry wood and we take wood from a certain area, then we burn it down,” he said. “We then weigh the two amounts of wood and determine the weight difference from the original weigh of the wood, and the wood that lost the most weight was indicative of where the most water was to begin with.”
Coffin said the three drainages listed in the state Water Resources Data System report that are the best indicators for Rio Blanco County are: Burro Mountain, located about 15 miles southeast of Meeker along the Buford-Newcastle road; Ripple Creek, due east of Meeker about 50 miles off County Road 8; and Trappers Lake, about 50 miles southeast of Meeker, south of County Road 8.
Up-to-the-minute snow/water equivalents and total precipitation reports are available through a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Natural Conservation Service and the Water and Climate Center in Portland, Ore.
The report, as of Friday afternoon, indicated that the percent of average precipitation is between 77 and 92 percent at the monitors, with the Trappers Lake area seeing the biggest increase.
Ripple Creek reported 92 percent of normal precipitation for the year with 115 percent of normal snowpack for the date.
Trappers Lake, which was running lowest of the three sites all winter long, has had 85 percent of normal precipitation due to storms in the past month, and Burro Lake remains at 77 percent of normal precipitation for the year.
Lee Hackleman, the water supply specialist for the BLM in Casper, Wyo., said, “The northern part of (Colorado) is doing extremely well with the southwest (portion of the state) not so much.
“All of (Northwest Colorado is) averaging at least 75 percent of median (as of Friday), and (the area was at) 18 percent of normal (at this time) last year,” he said. “All of the state is better off this year than last.”