Smoke pours into southern Colorado from New Mexico forest fire

Ute Park Fire Smoke

Drought conditions extend from southern Colorado into northern New Mexico after a very dry winter season. Due to the drought, and likely a recent lightning strike, a fire ignited in southern Colorado Thursday. As wind picked up during the afternoon, a smoke plume was spotted about 50 miles to the south of Trinidad, Colorado as the fire rapidly spread. By late in the day, smoke had moved into southern Colorado, affecting residents south of Highway 50 as the fire burned 4,500 acres during its first afternoon.

An early morning information briefing from officials overseeing the firefighting efforts as the first light of June hit the hillsides surrounding the fire, indicated that the fire had grown to more than 8,000 acres in under 24 hours. Even during the relatively cool and calm part of the day, the pyrocumulus cloud associated with the forest fire is already expanding and moving back into southern Colorado.

The Ute Park Fire is likely to grow more on Friday as weather conditions supportive of the rapid spread of wildfires redevelop over the southern Rocky Mountains. The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings for a large area of Colorado and New Mexico as warm and dry desert air should accompany gusty wind on Friday, enhancing the spread of the Ute Park Fire and any other fires that may develop.

Wind will spread from the mountain areas of Colorado and New Mexico down the eastern slopes of the Rockies and out onto the plains during the late morning on Friday. Wind gusts over the mountain areas may be near 40 mph and gusts on the plains may be near 30 mph out of the southwest through the afternoon.

Friday evening a cold front will arrive from the northwest, changing the direction of the wind, increasing the humidity and dropping the temperatures about 10 degrees for the start of the weekend. The weather behind the cold front should help firefighting efforts a little bit.

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