Unseasonably warm temperatures over the last few days have prompted an early start to Colorado’s fire season. The Sunshine fire started early Sunday morning (3/19) in the canyons west of Boulder, Colorado. Gusty winds quickly pushed the fire through dry fuels causing officials at the Boulder Office of Emergency Management to issue mandatory evacuations for over 400 homes and pre-evacuation notices for another 836 residences.
Over 250 firefighters battled through the night and managed to stop the fire’s forward progress before any structures were damaged. As of Monday morning all evacuations had been lifted, but the area is still closed to non-residents as crews continue to extinguish hotspots. Authorities have yet to determine a cause of the fire, but say it is likely human caused. The area around Sunshine Canyon is popular for hikers, but is also a known location for transient camps.
Temperatures in Colorado have been unseasonably warm this spring, topping out at over 80 degrees over the weekend. Only 2015 saw temperatures reach 80 degrees earlier in the season. The foothills of the Front Range west of Boulder are currently under a Red Flag Warning, the 10th such warning in Colorado this month.
Fire management officials are concerned that the region is currently experiencing fire weather conditions more akin to summer, rather than spring. Firefighters reported the conditions in the canyon on Sunday as “brutal”. Hotshot firefighter Jason Morley said, “I’ve never seen it like this before.” He added, “There is no snow at all up there. If you picked up grass, it would just crumble in your hands.”
- As of: March 20th, 2017
- Location: Boulder, CO
- Size: 74 acres
- Containment: 50%
- Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through dry fuels in steep rugged terrain.
- Evacuations: Initial response: 400 homes mandatory evacuated and pre-evacuation notices for 836 homes.
- News Article: weather.com, Boulder Daily Camera
The fire was declared fully contained (100%) around 1600 HRS Monday March 20th, 2017.