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06-15-2012, 16:37 #1
As Wildfires Rage in U.S. West, Scientists Predict Worse Blazes in Future
When lightning struck Saturday in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins, conditions could hardly have been better for the wildfire that ensued.
A dry winter and warm spring had left Roosevelt National Forest tinder dry, and strong, erratic winds whipping up from the southeast carried the flames easily through the pine trees.
"The snowpack we had this year was below average -- around 70 percent of average towards the end of February, followed by one of the driest, warmest Marches on record," said Tim Mathews, a fire meteorologist with the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center.
That trend continued through much of the spring, setting the stage for the current fire, he added.
By yesterday, the blaze had affected some 46,600 acres of land, damaging 100 structures and resulting in at least one fatality, a 62-year old woman named Linda Steadman.
Despite their severity, the High Park fire, as it has been named, and another, even more extensive fire in New Mexico are probably just the first blush of the year's fire season. Officials are bracing for more such blazes, particularly in the western parts of Rockies, where, they say, conditions are even drier.
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