Two fuels and fire behavior advisories for Colorado

Predictive Services

The Rocky Mountain Geographic Area and the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit on the Colorado Western Slope issued two Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisories today. Below are the complete texts of both:


Predictive Services

“Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory
Western Slope of Colorado

Subject: Western Colorado is in the third year of drought. The situation is predicted to persist or intensify through July. There is increased risk of large fire development and intense fire behavior. Dry, heavy fuels at higher elevations could pose a greater risk of active fire behavior.

Discussion: The wet spring pattern that occurred during April and May has provided a brief reprieve. Live and dead fuel moistures are quickly returning to a condition that will support large fire growth.

Forecasts do not offer the prospect of live or dead fuels conditions improving through July.

Difference from normal conditions: Fuels are described by fire managers as being deceptively green. The visual greenness being observed can lessen the sense of fire potential. Live fuels, which had shown some improvement from late spring precipitation, are drying. On the Western Slope of Colorado, 100FM fuels are setting historically low values for the date, nearing the 3rd percentile, and moving into the range associated with historic large fires. Long-term drying has made large, higher elevation fuels, available as well.

Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:

  • Recent large fires on the Front Range and Western Slope have displayed intense and/or extreme fire behavior.
  • Long-range spotting, fire whorls, extreme fireline intensity and high winds have been observed and will continue to be control problems on both wildland and urban interface incidents.
  • Local preparedness planning and cooperation should be on-going.
  • Management of suppression resources rest and recovery as activity increases.

Mitigation Measures: Strategies for dealing with each of the specific circumstances listed above include using Predictive Service¡¦s forecasts of higher potential for large fire occurrence, rapid initial attack in those high risk areas, and daily fire and fuels briefings to suppression personnel.


All resources need to be aware of local conditions and hazards. Through briefings from local units must occur in order to understand local influences and understand unique hazards.


Large areas of beetle killed lodge pole and spruce pine beetle have verified risks associated with available dead fuels and falling snags.


Gambles Oak is highly receptive with fuel moistures <125% especially when aligned with wind, slope, and sun.


Review and understand Interagency Standards for Fire and Aviation Operations Chapter 7-20, Responding to Wildland Fires in or near Oil/Gas Operations. Safety and Risk Management Chapter 7


Constantly evaluate the probability and the severity of your actions. Evaluate the risk you accept against the values at risk. Stand fast on the principles of HRO and the Risk Management Process with all actions taken.

Area of Concern: Submitted by the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit, Colorado, Western Slope.”



Predictive Services

“Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory
Southeastern and Southern Colorado

Subject: Extreme fuel conditions have resulted in potential for extreme fire behavior in southeastern Colorado.

Discussion: Southeastern and Southern Colorado are experiencing a multi-year (3-year) drought. Extremely low snowpack during the winter of 2012-2013 and high temperatures with only sporadic spring moisture have resulted in 1000-hour fuels in the single digits (4-10%). Dead fuel moistures have not recovered from previous year’s drought. Spring moisture also allowed for some green-up, which has also lulled personnel into a sense of complacency.

Difference from normal conditions: Ponderosa Pine Live Fuel Moisture Content (LFMC) values are 80-90%. Juniper LFMC values are 60-80%. LFMC values of other species, as well as duff and litter, are below normal values as well.

Piñon-Juniper – fuels and wind continue to contribute to an increase in extreme fire behavior conditions, increased rates of spread, profuse long-range spotting and earlier than average transitions to crown fire. The Royal Gorge Fire on 6/11/13 spotted ¾ mile across the 1,500 foot-deep gorge. Significant beetle-kill has occurred in many areas.

Mixed Conifer: High elevations are snow-free and are available to burn, with minimal green-up occurring. These areas have very high fuel loadings due to disease and insects, and several blowdown events.

Average conditions for the month of June for the area are for hot and dry conditions. Over 90% of all acres burned in the area occur during the month of June. With persistent drought conditions, expect fires to spread readily and exhibit high resistance to control.

Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:

  • Fuels beneath Aspen stands are available and should not be used as a safety zone or barriers to fire spread.
  • Areas of heavy fuel concentrations due to blowdown and disease/insect are available to burn.
  • Until the on-set of the monsoons (typically in late June to Mid-July), expect intensity and severity to increase, resulting in increased burning conditions.
  • Anticipate any ignition in flashy fine fuels to ignite easily and move rapidly. You can’t out run it!
  • Anticipate fires to exhibit extreme spread rates, elongated flaming fronts, and increased fire brands; expect more long range spotting.
  • Anticipate dependent and independent crown fires, as well as profuse spotting, in the insect infested conifer stands.
  • Active fire behavior can extend well into the night and early morning hours even with moderate RH recovery.

Mitigation Measures:

  • Incoming resources need to be informed of the increased potential through the use of incoming briefings, Pocket Cards, ERC’s, live and dead fuel moistures, and special fuel conditions (drought, blowdown, and insect mortality).
  • Firefighters should acknowledge that fire growth and fire behavior they encounter this year may exceed anything they have experienced before due to the drought factor. Normal strategies and tactics may need to be adjusted to account for the drought factor.

Area of Concern: Please reference the map posted on the National Fuel Advisory Page,

The timber and brush fuels within this area of concern are the target for this fire behavior advisory.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Two fuels and fire behavior advisories for Colorado”

  1. What is the meaning of “100FM fuels” — when Googling returns this page and unrelated ones, the phrase is too obscure to use without explanation.

  2. This is why I cancelled my fishing/train trip to Colorado two weeks ago. I’m in the business of wildfire prediction, consultation and manufacturing. I have relatives that live in South Fork. The summer has just started, yesterday.

  3. We went to the state training camp to knock some cobwebs out and got a lot of green stuff to burn, right after a horrible thunder/hail storm with loads of rain. Got some trees to torch as well. I can attest to the “deceptively green” statement. Good luck to all the brothers and sisters in or headed to Colorado and other dry areas. Geez, 1000 hour fuels that dry?


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