Fire Outlook Grim

Fire officials report 31 new fires started in Colorado on the first day of July. It's been an active season so far, but officials point out it’s been worse, and say some relief could be on the way.

As the Wrights fire in Teller County burned forty-plus acres, the wind-whipped Mato Vega fire chewed up close to 14-thousand acres of parched Colorado ground in the early part of the 2006 fire season.

"It was very active because it was very dry. We weren't having any precipitation," explained Cass Cairns with the U.S. Forest Service.

A dangerous mix of low moisture, dry lightning storms and human error has pushed this year's total acres burned state-wide to 77-thousand and counting. That makes this year already worse than the past three, but nowhere close to 2002 which saw the destruction of more than 600-thousand acres thanks to blazes like the Hayman.

"The word is getting out loud and strong, so people are being a lot more conscientious about using fire," Cairns said.

Cairns says for the most part this year, campers are following the current fire restrictions. She's also among those counting on the return of monsoon moisture to bring down the fire danger.

"If that occurs, we should be pretty good," she said.

And in the meantime, Cairns says with every little bit of precipitation, the situation is improving. That is, as long as no one helps contribute to the amount of charred Colorado ground.

"People just need to be careful," said Cairns.

Officials are counting on the monsoons to help the current situation, but they say that could present problems in the future. Rain makes everything grow, and once conditions get hot and dry again later this summer grasses and other plants become fuels, which will likely increase the fire danger.

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