Fire weather warnings – now a way of life

Fire weather warnings are a way of life in Colorado. As of May 9, Colorado has had 98 Fire weather warnings. Nearly every day my phone goes off with another warning for our area: zone 216.

The National Weather Service defines a Fire Weather Watch and a Red Flag Warning as when weather systems support extreme fire danger. From their website: Fire Weather-Red Flag Warnings from the NWS


  • “Each NWS office creates local criteria for fire weather watches and red flag warnings.
  • Sustained 20 foot winds of 20 mph or higher.
  • Afternoon relative humidity less than 25%.
  • 10-hour fuel moisture at 8% or less for one day.
  • A Fire Weather Watch is issued up to 72 hours before the above conditions are expected to occur.
  • A Red Flag Warning is issued when the conditions above are expected to occur or are occurring within the next 24 hours.”


  • So when I received a notification on my Twitter feed I was a little surprised to see the words “impossible to stop” when referring to the day’s warning. Those words now have an event to connect with their meaning – it conjures images of the Marshall Fire just a few months before. Absolutely unstoppable flames that destroyed 1100 homes and business in just a few hours.

    Local fire department tells mountain community members to have to-go lists – one for 5-minute warning and one for a 30-minute warning.

    5-minute list

    1. Cats -put in their carrier that has their collar on it– put them in the car – cover them
    2. Computers/chargers/hard drives
    3. Purse and cell phone
    4. Portable electronics
    5. Folding chair

    OFFICE:
    6. Computer hard drives/router
    7. File box
    8. Orange recipe notebook

    BEDROOM:
    9. Cameras
    10. Put clothes in laundry basket
    11. Blankets/pillow in bedroom
    12. Book box

    KITCHEN:
    13. Prescriptions in kitchen cabinet – put in BIG work lunch bag
    14. Cat food
    15. Bottled water by the door

    MUDROOM:
    16. Extra shoes
    17. Coats from back of door

    OUTSIDE:
    • Take mats away from front door
    • Remove any decorations by front door

    Go back in and take one more quick look. Grab what you can. Bless the house. Leave.

    30-minute list

    1. Cats -put in their carrier that has their collar on it – put them in the car – cover them
    2. Computer/charger
    3. Purse
    4. Any the family pictures you can load

    OFFICE:
    5. Computer hard drives/router/land line and cord
    6. File box
    7. Orange cookbook
    8. Electronics and charging cords
    9. Handmade knitting notebooks
    10. Litter box

    BACK ROOM:
    11. Yarn

    BEDROOM:
    12. Cameras
    13. Clothes – grab laundry basket and fill it up
    14. Book box
    15. Blankets/pillows in bedroom
    16. Family pictures (including picture of me, Norian and Jason Momoa)

    KITCHEN:
    17. Prescriptions in kitchen cabinet – put in work BIG lunchbag
    18. Cat food: dry and wet/food and water
    19. Bottled water by the door

    FRONT ROOM:
    20. Knitting needles/accessories from cart
    21. Pictures
    22. Media AND remotes – DON’T FORGET THE REMOTES

    MUDROOM:
    23. Extra shoes
    24. Coats off the door hanger

    OUTSIDE:
    • Take mats away from front door
    • Remove any decorations by front door

    Go back in and take one more look. Grab what you can. Bless the house. Leave.

    A friend told me she had received an evacuation order an had less than five minutes to leave. She didn’t have a list and couldn’t concentrate in the pressure of the moment. The only thing she grabbed was a Las Vegas shotglass and her purse. When she returned home after the evac notice was lifted, she made a list.

    The wind/fire weather warnings are expected to continue into the summer. Mountain people are more cautious these days. The thing about being responsible for starting a fire is the wrath that follows the event. The name, ‘Terry Barton’ carries a lot of emotional weight around here, having been convicted of starting the Hayman Fire in 2002 and burned over 138,000 acres and destroyed countless homes and businesses. That fire lasted more than a month. Twenty years later, the Marshall Fire destroyed everything in its path in just a day.

    But living in fear isn’t acceptable. Do what you can, be smart and be prepared.

    Pray for rain but no lightning; pray for snow but no wind.

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