Thu April 26, 2012

USFS Chief: Wildfire Danger in Central Colorado a Concern

The chief of the US Forest Service says he’s concerned about the imminent threat of major wildfires in the Colorado mountains where a dry and mild winter has left snow pack less than 40% of normal this Spring. 

Chief Tom Tidwell along with forecasters at the National Interagency Fire Center said Thursday the long-term drought in the southwestern US and weak snow pack across the central Rockies and the western slope of Colorado don’t bode well for the summer fire season, and these regions are the biggest concern for fire managers right now nationally. 

The threat is compounded by the millions of acres of dead and dying trees as a result of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in the Rocky Mountain West.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell had this to say during a telephone news conference.

"We are watching the weather very closely, as things start to dry out we will be moving additional resources into southern Colorado as those conditions change."

One of the biggest concerns right now is the Forest Service’s aging fleet of air tankers.  But Tidwell said he’s confident that the resources are there to attack any major, human-caused wildfires from the air. 

The Forest Service has eleven tankers at the ready, and Tidwell said he’s adding up to 11 more planes with the help of the Air Force and National Guard in the coming weeks.

Meantime, the NIFC's official forecast for the summer wildfire will be released in early May.