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Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 06/27/2012

Colorado wildfires: Hot, dry conditions stoke firestorm (PHOTOS)


Satellite view of Waldo Canyon Fire outside Colorado Springs Wednesday (June 26) from the NASA Aqua satellite, MODIS instrument. (NASA)
Multiple wildfires continue running rampant in Colorado and the devastating combination of record hot June temperatures, state-wide drought and winds are partly to blame.

Denver sizzled to at least 100 for the 5th consecutive day Wednesday, tying the longest such stretch on record. During the final two days of that span, it touched 105 - tying its highest temperature ever measured. In Colorado Springs, the mercury hit at least 100 on two straight days (June 23 and 24) for only the second time since records have been kept. On Wednesday, when it hit 101, it set an all-time high.


Drought conditions cover much of Colorado (U.S. Drought Monitor)
The heat has - no doubt - been worsened by drought - reaching severe-to-extreme levels in many areas. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor indicates at least moderate drought covering 90% of the state. The entire state is abnormally dry. The resulting low relative humidities have been extremely conducive for the spread of fires.

Related: Southwest drought, climate warming and fuel: an explosive combination for record wildfires

And to make matters worse, windy conditions have fanned the flames. On Wednesday afternoon, winds gusted up to 65 mph near Colorado Springs.


Image shows expansion of Waldo Canyon wildfire near Colorado Springs over the last four days (6/24-6/27) (NOAA)
Of great concern right now is the Waldo Canyon fire torching the hills overlooking Colorado Springs. 32,000 residents have been evacuated as has the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Associated Press reports an unknown number of homes have been destroyed. The fire has burned 15,375 acres according to meteorologist Matt Meister (Twitter report, see below). And it’s far from being put out.

Time lapse of Waldo Canyon Fire uploaded to YouTube by NicholasBrandenLee

Said the Colorado Springs fire chief Rich Brown: “This is an active fire. It’s not even remotely close to being contained.”

Collection of fire photos from near Colorado Springs and Boulder

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Also of concern is the Flagstaff fire burning north of Boulder. The AP said no structures were immediately threatened, but the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) was closed in an abundance of caution Wednesday.

The state’s largest fire - the High Park Fire - continues to burn west of Fort Collins. Science Today reported yesterday that it has burned more than 83,000 acres - placing it as the second largest fire in Colorado history.

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper called this “the worst fire season in the history of Colorado.”

Video overview of Colorado Springs fire

By  |  10:56 AM ET, 06/27/2012

Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather, Extreme Heat, Droughts

 
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