(SOUTHERN COLORADO) — The main weather story the last few days have been warm temperatures and high fire danger across Southern Colorado, and you may have heard the FOX21 Storm Team mention Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches being issued, but what do those mean?

In Colorado, there are four National Weather Service (NWS) offices that forecast fire weather. The Pueblo office (PUB) issues our alerts across Southern Colorado.

Colorado NWS offices and the counties they cover.

Red Flag Warning

Each National Weather Service office looks at three main factors when issuing a Red Flag Warning (RFW).

  • Warm temperatures
  • Very low humidities
  • Stronger winds

The three combined produce an increased risk of fire danger in any area.

These weather conditions can make it easier for fires to start. It also makes it harder for firefighters to put them out and allows fires to spread very quickly.

Red Flag Warning issued by NWS Pueblo on April 12, 2023.

NWS has a few recommendations for RFW conditions in general.

  • If burning is allowed in your area, all barrels should be covered with a weighted metal cover. Covers should not have any holes larger than 3/4 of an inch.
  • No cigarettes or matches should be thrown from a moving vehicle.
  • Outdoor fires should be extinguished properly, including thorough water dousing — even dunking charcoal in water is suggested.
  • Never leave fires unattended.

Fire Weather Watch

As for a Fire Weather Watch, these are issued to alert fire officials and firefighters of potentially dangerous fire weather conditions in the next one to two days.

They are issued when the following three criteria are met:

  • Afternoon relative humidity less than 25%
  • Sustained winds of 20 MPH or higher
  • 10-hour fuel moisture less than 8% or less than one day.

If these are met, a Fire Weather Watch will be upgraded to a Red Flag Warning.

Fire Weather Watch issued by NWS Pueblo for April 13, 2023

To know if there is a Red Flag Warning or Fire Weather Watch issued in your area visit NWS Pueblo office website and the FOX21 Storm Team’s forecast page.

When Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches are issued, they should not be taken lightly. It’s important to do what you can to prevent a fire from sparking and spreading.