Heat Wave Adds to Colorado Wildfire Woes

Record-breaking heat combined with drought create ideal conditions for wildfire

So far this summer, California has been spared from massive wildfires like the ones raging in Colorado. You can keep tabs on fires in California on CalFire’s statewide map.

By Andrew Freedman

U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan/Flickr

The Waldo Canyon fire burns off the southern border of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Blistering and desiccating heat across the West and High Plains helped aggravate an already dangerous wildfire situation in Colorado and several other states, and now the heat is moving eastward toward the Midwest, South Central states, and eventually the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Denver endured a record fifth straight day of 100-degree temperatures on Tuesday, and the high temperature of 105°F tied the city’s all-time record high, a milestone that reached just a day earlier. Colorado Springs also hit an all-time mark on Tuesday, with a high of 101°F.

At least 23 daily high temperature records were broken or tied in Colorado alone on Tuesday.

The heat, combined with drought conditions and afternoon thunderstorms that brought lightning but little rain, helped create ideal conditions for massive wildfires in Colorado. A thunderstorm-related wind shift caused the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs to advance on the state’s second-largest city, prompting evacuation orders for at least 32,000. The fire has consumed an unknown number of homes and businesses.

According to the Denver Post, the wildfires are “shaping up as one of the biggest disasters in Colorado history.”

“This is a fire of epic proportions,” Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown told Reuters. Following a helicopter flyover of the Waldo Canyon blaze, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters: “It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine.

“It’s almost surreal. You look at that, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before,” he said, according to a report on MSNBC.com.

The Waldo Canyon Fire had burned more than 15,000 acres as of Wednesday, and was just 5 percent contained.

This post is from Climate Watch’s content partner, Climate Central.