Lightning Safety & Awareness Part 5

Lightning-sparked wildfires is a common occurrence in Colorado during the summer months, especially this year.  Read on to learn more about this phenomenon.

Lightning and Wildfires

COLORADO
LIGHTNING SAFETY AND WILDFIRE AWARENESS WEEK CONCLUDES WITH WILDFIRES BEING THE FINAL TOPIC.  ALTHOUGH WILDFIRES ARE NOT AN ACTUAL WEATHER PHENOMENON…WILDFIRES ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO LIGHTNING AND OTHER WEATHER ELEMENTS.  

THE WILDFIRE THREAT IN COLORADO NORMALLY INCREASES SIGNIFICANTLY AFTER THE MIDDLE OF JUNE.  THIS THREAT USUALLY PEAKS IN EARLY JULY AND REMAINS HIGH THROUGH AUGUST AND EARLY SEPTEMBER.   DEPENDING ON CLIMATIC CONDITIONS…THE TIME OF YEAR FOR THE PEAK WILDFIRE THREAT CAN BE ABOUT A MONTH EARLIER OR LATER THAN NORMAL.  COLORADO AVERAGES ABOUT 2500 WILDFIRES EACH YEAR.  

ABOUT HALF OF ALL FOREST FIRES IN COLORADO ARE IGNITED BY LIGHTNING.  ADDITIONALLY …MANY RANGELAND AND WHEATFIELD FIRES ARE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING. MANY OF THESE LIGHTNING CAUSED WILDFIRES OCCUR IN THE ABSENCE OF RAIN.  WHEN THIS OCCURS…THE LIGHTNING IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS DRY LIGHTNING.  

GUSTY WINDS OFTEN ACCOMPANY THUNDERSTORMS WHICH PRODUCE DRY LIGHTNING.  THESE GUSTY WINDS ACCELERATE THE SPREAD OF FIRES.  THESE THUNDERSTORM WINDS CAN QUICKLY TURN SMOLDERING ORGANIC MATERIAL INTO A RAGING FIRE.  THUNDERSTORM WINDS TEND TO BE ERRATIC IN DIRECTION AND SPEED…POSING ONE OF THE GREATEST DANGERS FOR FIREFIGHTERS.  

LIGHTNING WHICH STRIKES THE GROUND IS USUALLY DIVIDED INTO TWO CATEGORIES… NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE STRIKES…DEPENDING ON THE IONIC SOURCE REGION OF THE THUNDERSTORM.  THE NEGATIVE STRIKES ARE FAR MORE COMMON THAN POSITIVE STRIKES.  THE POSITIVE STRIKES ARE MORE INTENSE AND HAVE A LONGER DURATION THAN THE NEGATIVE STRIKES AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO IGNITE A FIRE.  LIGHTNING DETECTION TECHNOLOGY PROVIDES LAND MANAGERS…FIREFIGHTERS…AND WEATHER FORECASTERS WITH THE ABILITY TO IDENTIFY THE GENERAL LOCATION AND CHARGE CATEGORY OF EACH LIGHTNING STRIKE WITHIN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES.  

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECASTERS HELP LAND MANAGERS AND FIREFIGHTERS BY PRODUCING FIRE WEATHER FORECASTS ON A DAILY BASIS DURING THE WARM SEASON.  SPOT FIRE WEATHER FORECASTS ARE ALSO PROVIDED FOR THOSE WHO WORK ON PRESCRIBED BURNS OR SPECIFIC WILDFIRES.  FORECASTERS ALSO ISSUE RED FLAG WARNINGS FOR USE BY LAND MANAGERS WHEN THE COMBINATION OF DRY VEGETATION AND CRITICAL WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL RESULT IN A HIGH POTENTIAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND SPREAD OF WILDFIRES.  LAND MANAGERS…IN TURN…TYPICALLY INFORM THE GENERAL PUBLIC OF THE FIRE DANGER IN NATIONAL PARKS…FORESTS…AND OTHER PUBLIC LANDS.  

DURING PERIODS OF EXTREME FIRE DANGER IN FORESTS AND RANGELANDS...  

...YOU SHOULD AVOID BEING IN AREAS WHERE YOU MIGHT BECOME TRAPPED BY A WILDFIRE.  

...YOU SHOULD AVOID THE USE OF MATCHES OR ANYTHING ELSE WHICH COULD IGNITE A FIRE. 

 ...MAKE SURE THAT HOT PARTS OF MOTORIZED EQUIPMENT…SUCH AS MUFFLERS…ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COME IN CONTACT WITH DRY GRASSES OR OTHER POTENTIALLY FLAMMABLE MATERIAL. 

...MAKE SURE THAT HOT PARTS OF MOTORIZED EQUIPMENT…SUCH AS MUFFLERS…ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COME IN CONTACT WITH DRY GRASSES OR OTHER POTENTIALLY FLAMMABLE MATERIAL. 

 ...MAKE SURE THAT HOT PARTS OF MOTORIZED EQUIPMENT…SUCH AS MUFFLERS…ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COME IN CONTACT WITH DRY GRASSES OR OTHER POTENTIALLY FLAMMABLE MATERIAL.  

IF YOU BECOME TRAPPED OR CUT OFF BY A WILDFIRE…SEEK SHELTER IN AREAS WITH LITTLE OR NO FUEL…SUCH AS ROCK SLIDE AREAS OR LAKES.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WILDFIRES AND FIRE SAFETY, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING WEB ADDRESSES:


HTTP://FIRE.BOI.NOAA.GOV


HTTP://WWW.NIFC.GOV/PREVED/INDEX.HTML


WWW.DOLA.STATE.CO.US/OEM/PUBLICINFORMATION/WILDFIRE.HTM

AM Meteorologist Branden Borremans

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