The American West is currently in the midst of a drought crisis. The drought in Colorado is affecting the state’s water supply, prompting area residents to implement water-saving measures. Not only that, droughts cause wildfires to spread faster and fires to rage stronger.
How does drought impact Colorado?
The US Drought Monitor is revealing in its current data about the drought conditions affecting Colorado. The intensity of the drought varies widely throughout the state. The updated US Drought Monitor provides a clear and updated picture of drought conditions here.
Five drought conditions are mapped out each week in the US Drought Monitor data. The five-category system shows areas affected by normally dry conditions, moderated dryness, severe drought, extreme drought, and exceptional drought. Colorado shows many areas impacted by severe drought.
As of November 2022, precisely 83.7 percent of Colorado is affected by abnormally dry conditions. The consequences of abnormally dry weather include a reduction in hay production and dry rangeland. These abnormally dry conditions also mean that irrigation begins sooner.
Abnormally dry conditions affect residents living in towns and cities, such as Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Clifton. Major cities, like Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, and Littleton, are also categorized as having abnormally dry conditions this month. Even the Rocky Mountain National Park is abnormally dry.
Moderate drought during the month of November affects 49.4 percent of Colorado. In areas hit by moderate drought, very little hay is available and rangeland growth is stunted. Dryland crops are adversely impacted and the threat of wildfires increases exponentially.
Large cities, like Boulder, Colorado, are being impacted by moderate drought conditions. Denver, the state’s capitol, is also being categorized as experiencing moderate drought. Smaller towns, like La Junta Gardens and Larkspur, are no less impacted by the moderate drought.
Severe drought affects about one-quarter of the state at 25.2 percent. Farmers impacted by the severe drought reduce their planting and producers sell their cattle. Moisture lessens as surface water levels become low; river flows decrease; and snowpack is low. Fire season extends in these parts.
At 4.3 percent, a smaller part of the Centennial State experiences extreme drought as of November 2022. Particularly in the northeast of Denver, pasture conditions are worsening and large fires are developing. Extreme drought conditions heavily impact water reservoirs, as well.
For example, the extreme drought in the northeastern part of the state causes reservoirs to remain at extremely low levels. Water temperatures are on the rise as the drought continues. Water restrictions on residents are strongly being considered in the areas affected by extreme drought.
Exceptional drought currently impacts only a small part of Colorado. In the northeastern part of the state, surrounded by areas of extreme drought, are the exceptional drought areas. These parts are being affected by widespread dust storms and the removal of topsoil. Agricultural losses are also immense.
How does drought cause fires to spread faster?
Dire drought conditions affect 3.5 million residents in the Centennial State. In areas with severe drought and decreased snowpack, the likelihood of large wildfires increases. Drought and warmer temperatures result in dry soil and widespread tree deaths—all of which contribute to major wildfires.
Drought-stricken areas with low precipitation, dry soil, and extreme heat are extremely vulnerable to wildfires. These conditions also cause wildfires to burn more intensely and spread more rapidly. Suppressing extreme and swift-moving wildfires is a necessary but highly costly endeavor.
Fuels for wildfires include grasses and trees. When drought conditions strike, these grasses and trees dry out or perish and become more flammable. Droughts increase the probability of ignition as well as the rate at which the flames spread. Nearby homes can be destroyed by wildfires.
Residential property losses due to fires can be major, especially when the wildfires burn close to highly populated areas and wind conditions fan the flames. Commercial property losses, too, are severe, with losses for insured buildings mounting to over $336 million in 2021.
In areas where drought has hit, the drinking water supply will be impacted. Watersheds and reservoirs can become polluted with ash from the wildfires and the debris flows that accompany them. Water treatment facilities may have to be shut down due to loss of power or damage.
How can property owners minimize losses?
Commercial property owners can take steps to limit potential losses from a wildfire by installing smoke detectors and automatic fire sprinklers. Install window drapes with fire-retardant chemicals. Cover exterior vents, the deck, and attic openings with mesh to prevent embers from landing inside.
Residential homeowners are advised to build a defensible space around the property to protect it from fires. Slowing the spread of a fire can be accomplished by treating, clearing, or reducing vegetation, debris, and other combustible fuels from the areas that surround the home.
Building owners are also advised to keep the contact information of a reputable fire damage restoration company, such as ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration, on hand. We provide comprehensive fire and smoke damage cleanup services to both homes and businesses.
After fire officials extinguish the flames, our technicians arrive at your property right away to control the spread of fire damage. We utilize advanced techniques and safe cleaning solutions to remove soot, smoke, and other corrosive byproducts of fire before it causes permanent damage.
Your building will undergo structural repairs once we stabilize it. ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration crews clean and restore all affected belongings, including clothing, textiles, and electronics. Our convenient content cleaning and pack-out services help salvage your fire damaged possessions.
Smoke odors are another disastrous outcome of a property fire. ServiceMaster cleanup crews eliminate all foul smoke odors using advanced deodorization equipment. Our methods extract and neutralize the odor particles, returning optimal air quality to your home or commercial building.
Home and business owners in Denver, Colorado, and the surrounding areas are encouraged to call ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration when fire damage occurs. Experienced crews are available to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day. Call us right away for quality fire and smoke damage restoration.