Apparently, April comes in like a lion, too. Or at least it does in Southeastern Colorado.
Over the next several days, the National Weather Service predicts that Otero County residents will experience potential red flag winds, rain and swelling temperatures which will then dip back into the 50s by the weekend.
Despite recent precipitation, high winds over the weekend contributed to the spread of the Black Bridge Fire in Bent County. As of Monday morning, the fire had burned approximately 1,600 acres, according to Bent County Emergency Manager Rick Stwalley.
Otero County was on a fire weather watch on Monday, NWS Meteorologist Brad Carlberg told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat. Carlberg said he anticipates wind conditions to develop into a red flag warning on Tuesday.
The warning approaches despite the region receiving between 0.5 and 1.0 inches of precipitation in March. According to NWS precipitation maps, only about 0.25 to 0.5 inches of precipitation were generated in March 2018.
The NWS in Pueblo anticipates top wind speeds to reach 25 to 30 mph on Tuesday. Wednesday could bring winds of up to 45 mph.
"We're monitoring that and we'll make our decision on that, if we'll upgrade it to a red flag warning or not," said Carlberg.
Carlberg said Tuesday temperatures could reach 86 degrees, the highest temperature of the year so far. The prior highest temperature was 83 degrees on March 27.
Later in the week, though, temperatures are expected to settle at a high of 50 degrees on Thursday and a high of 55 degrees on Friday, Carlberg said.
The mix of warm temperatures, breezy conditions and low humidity predicted for Tuesday will foster the potential for wildfires. Carlberg said that even if NWS doesn't issue an explicit red flag warning, the region will still be at an elevated concern for fires.
"Do whatever you can to not start fires," said Stwalley.
Stwalley said Las Animas Fire Department crews have been combatting the Black Bridge Fire since Thursday evening, with assistance from La Junta Fire & EMS, Rocky Ford Fire Department and other neighboring emergency services. As of Monday, the blaze was 80 percent contained, Stwalley said.
"Most of the burn is interior right now, so it's not expanding. The firemen are pretty much just monitoring it," he said.
The presence of some wind helped the fire spread initially, and then as Bent County entered a red flag warning on Friday, the fire started to burn more rapidly. Gov. Jared Polis ordered the deployment of Colorado National Guard Blackhawk helicopters on Friday, which dropped massive loads of water onto the active blaze.
Early-week forecasts indicate a slight chance for rain on Wednesday and into Wednesday night, Carlberg said, and there's a 10 to 15 percent chance of rain this weekend.
"As of right now, it might be isolated showers or thunderstorms," said Carlberg. "It's kind of hit or miss at the moment. It looks like most precipitation is going to be off to the north and then the mountains."