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Vail is about 100 inches below its seasonal average for snowfall so far this ski season, sitting at just 229 cummulative inches on April 9. That hasn’t been the best of news for powder skiers, but it may be even worse news for hikers, bikers, boaters, water managers and residents of the Colorado high country facing a dire wildfire outlook for 2021.
In 2020, Colorado experienced the all-time record wildfire season, with three of the largest fires in state history ravaging the state’s Rocky Mountain region. And that was following a relatively average snowfall season. Vail, which closes for the season on April 18, typically sees a seasonal average of about 330 inches of snow. Beaver Creek, which closes on Sunday, April 11, is just slightly ahead of Vail at 232 inches so far this season.
While there’s some snow in the forecast for next week, it will not be anywhere close to what’s needed to get to that average amount of snowfall — a fact that is not lost on state officials furiously planning for another epic wildfire season. Here’s a press release issued Thursday by the office of Gov. Jared Polis:
LAKEWOOD – Today, Governor Polis joined the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control to discuss the state’s 2021 Wildfire Outlook and Preparedness Plan.
“It is not just a fire season but instead the risk is now year-round. That is why we are taking many steps to have a more proactive approach to battling wildfires, because these trends and drought conditions are not an anomaly, they are a harbinger of the future,” said Governor Polis. “We want to make sure our firefighters on the ground have the tools they need to stay safe while battling wildfires and working to protect our communities. I encourage everyone to do their part and to be careful this wildfire season, as a seemingly minor act can cause immense devastation.”
“Colorado experienced one of the worst fire seasons in history in 2020,” said DFPC Director Morgan. “We have been hard at work preparing for 2021 and have developed a strategy that allows us to respond more effectively to Colorado’s growing wildfire seasons.”
The 2021 wildfire outlook forecast indicates that Colorado is expected to see above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation from now into August. These forecasted conditions are likely to lead to an earlier than normal start to the core fires in Colorado.
Early detection will play a critical role in Colorado’s efforts to manage wildfires this season. DFPC will utilize state-of-the-art infrared and color sensors, Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA), operated by firefighters to find and locate fires.
DFPC is also enhancing fire training and implementing public information campaigns to bolster the fight against wildland fire. The Wildfire Preparedness Plan also calls for a collaborative, interagency effort in the western United States to fight wildfires. Utilizing resources from local, county, state, and federal agencies will be necessary and standard practice on an annual basis.
Governor Polis recently signed SB21-113, which allows Colorado to purchase a helicopter specifically equipped to fight wildfires.
View the 2021 Colorado Wildfire Preparedness Plan.