Fire Behavior Risk in Late Frost Gambel Oak

Significant frost kill is present in the Gambel Oak as a result of late May freezes that took place after leaf budding began. Areas affected include an elevation range of 6000'-9200' along the Western slope of Colorado.

Fire personnel should be aware of elevated risk in the frost killed Gambel Oak from a greater likelihood of rapid developing fires. Potential condition similar to an understory burn where scorched canopy stays intact and can lead to increased potential of crown fire/reburn development in affected areas. Higher dead to live ratios and dead fuels suspended within the brush canopy could have significant impact on fire behavior. Additionally, these fuel conditions will hinder normal fire suppression efforts and can cause increased fire behavior. Extreme fire behavior such as dangerous rates of spread (similar to what was observed on the South Canyon fire in 1994), torching, crowning, and long range spotting can occur. This will be especially true in situations where the wind and slopes are favorably aligned. Remember Gambel Oak is deceiving; even when it appears green; it still could have potential to support active fire behavior and extreme rates of spread.

• Incident Commanders and other fire overhead should pay special attention to the Gambel Oak during the early stages of fires within the 6000'-9200' elevation range.

• Fire Managers/ Firefighters should focus on life safety and safe ingress/egress, as well as suppression options and safe access prior to an event.

• Agency Administrators need to ensure “Life First” is applied in all their Fire Management decisions and that the concerns brought forward in this document are included in all suppression and or prescribed fire operations. 

Fire & Fuels Assessment - Colorado Western Slope - June 1, 2017

Review the most current Rocky Mountain Area 7-day Significant Fire Potential product along with the Monthly/Seasonal Outlook from Predictive Services https://gacc.nifc.gov/rmcc/outlooks1.php