Super Wet Month Douses Threats
Last April, Teller residents received a scare when the 403 fire ignited in eastern Park County and threatened to scorch areas near Florissant.
Even though the fire never officially crossed the Park/Teller County border, scores of local residents got evacuated and the region was put on a Stage Two fire ban. The memories of the earlier devastating Waldo Canyon and Hayman blazes, which destroyed hundreds of homes, started to rekindle.
And then after being engulfed by smoke coming from fires in Canada last week, many area residents started to wonder about the probability of a rash of fires striking again. But according to local authorities, the moisture levels within the county are much higher than they are normally for this time of year. Moreover, the prospects of renewed fire bans in the local region don’t appear likely.
That’s good news for rural property owners and residents and even tourists, but not so great for recreation-goers, who may find their plans for camping, hiking, fishing and hitting the links this summer getting interrupted continually by Mother Nature’s wet outbursts.
So far, Teller County has not experienced a wildfire inside its borders in 2023, but the 403 Fire and the Rampart blaze threatened the east and west county boundaries early in the current fire season.
Many residents in the region were worried that fires were starting so soon in the spring season, and they hoped that the early season blazes did not mean the area would have a brutal fire season this summer.
However, Mother Nature changed her course in the last month. The months of April and May saw a couple of significant heavy and wet snow storms that helped alleviate the abnormally high fire danger conditions occurring in the first part of spring.
And then it seemed like between mid and late May, the region was doused with Pacific Northwest-style rain. For a good portion of the month of May, much of Colorado experienced rainfall nearly every day.
On certain days, the high rain prompted major flooding concerns. During one storm, rock slides riddled Hwy. 24 between Manitou Springs and Woodland Park, forcing lane closures.
There also have been posts on social media outlets, highlighting a number of roads in the mountainous regions of the area becoming impassable due to roadways washing out after rainstorms. Phantom Canyon Road, south of Victor, was closed in one section due to road damage and the four-wheel drive route (Mt. Herman Road) between Monument and Woodland Park over Rampart Range also saw a closure due to excessive rainfall.
No Fire Bans Predicted in Near Future
According to Teller County Emergency Management (OEM) Director Jay Teague, the county right now is in a good place with its moisture levels. “Currently Teller County is experiencing better than average fire conditions,” the OEM director said. “Recent bouts of precipitation are keeping our fuel moisture levels from drying out. Recent outside fires have shown very minimal rate of fire spread allowing fire districts to contain them quickly.”
Teague said that fire crews from the Four Mile Fire Department, south of Florissant, attempted to obtain fuel moisture samples last week, but they couldn’t due to ample rain at the testing locations. “Residents may have noticed the reduction in fire danger levels on the signs in various fire districts,” Teague continued. “We do not foresee implementation of any fire bans in the near future unless conditions drastically turn for the worse.”
The OEM director also noted that the region has good access to equipment, which could enable officials to monitor its threat level.
Teague stated that the state has contracted a large frame aircraft, parked at the Colorado Springs Airport, ready to help tackle a wildfire. He said that there are also local assets deployed to places like Canada that are seeing an outbreak of fires.
Currently, as local news stations have reported, multiple fires have scorched Canada, with more than a reported million acres on fire. For a few days last week, Teller County was inundated with thick smoke, but according to Teague, the area saw lower levels of smoke than other metropolitan areas.
Still, he said the smoke levels were high enough to issue a public health advisory for the county. Last week, OEM did issue a health advisory for the county, via news channels and social media.
But even though fire dangers are lower than usual, authorities still stress the importance of preparing for the worst case scenario. This theme was stressed by Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams at a recent meeting. He advised residents to take advantage of this break from fire threats to mitigate their property.
Last week, the Northeast Teller Fire Protection District held their annual fire preparedness event. Currently, the county is preparing for “Emergency Preparedness Day” which will take place on July 15 at the Summit Elementary School in Divide from 9 a.m. to noon.
According to Teague, the theme for this year’s event is “Personal Responsibility and Preparedness.” He said that there will be dozens of agencies and departments participating this year for the event that is aimed at being fun and educational for the whole family.
“Emergency Management is still encouraging residents and visitors to use extreme caution with outside heat sources and open flame,” Teague said. “Currently I am comfortable with the fire conditions and will enjoy the ‘Green-up’ that we are seeing begin across the area. Residents can rest assured your fire districts are geared up and have been training diligently in preparation for the remainder of fire season. I highly encourage Teller residents to reach out to their local fire district and see how they can volunteer.”