Return of Precipitation After Long Drought May Ease Colorado Wildfire Threat

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Wildfire experts are hoping the easing of the five-year drought will dampen the fire danger this spring and summer.

Although some northern areas are below their 30-year snowpack averages, statewide the snowpack was 110 percent above average Saturday and 66 percent ahead of last year.

It's too early to be certain of what the season will be like, however, said Terry McCann of the Pike National Forest. He noted that last summer there were no major wildfires in drier conditions than this year.

A survey in March showed the moisture level in the largest deadwood and live trees in the Pike National Forest is the highest it has been since the region was hit with drought five years ago.

Still, McCann said some experts fear that the drought was so long that it has hindered the ability of trees and plants to absorb water once runoff begins.

Christina Randall, wildland risk manager for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, said she fears recent snowfalls could lull residents into thinking the drought and its effects are over. She said even when the drought ends, it could take years before trees and plants recover from the shock.

She also warned that moisture in March and April can encourage the growth of grasses and scrub oak, which can turn into combustible fuel if the rains don't come this summer.

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