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 Bent County residents will experience potential red flag winds, rain and swelling temperatures, which will 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 along the Lower Arkansas River. As of Tuesday morning, the fire had burned approximately 1,600 acres, according to Bent County Emergency Manager Rick Stwalley.
Otero and Bent County were on a fire weather watch on Monday, NWS Meteorologist Brad Carlberg told the Bent County Democrat. Otero and Bent counties were placed on a red flag warning on Tuesday as well. The warning was issued 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.
On Tuesday, NWS Meteorologist Mark Wankowski said Bent and Otero counties can expect more wind and potentially some rain through the week. Meteorologist Mike Nosko said that top wind speeds on Thursday morning could reach 50-55 mph, but that they would mostly remain under 50 mph, as a Wednesday storm system departs from the area. Winds and gusts should taper off through the weekend, Nosko said.
Thursday temperatures are expected to drop to a high in the 40s. Temperatures will raise by about 10 degrees through Friday and Saturday until they raise back into the 60s on Sunday.
"Right now we only have about 30 percent chance of precipitation Friday night into Saturday. Then it should dry back out again for Sunday," said Nosko.
The mix of warm temperatures, breezy conditions and low humidity predicted for the week 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 Tuesday, 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.