Lightning, controlled burns can be dangerous


The fire restrictions are suspended, but residents should still exercise caution with fires.

Recent rains have penetrated the soil and increased the fuel moisture, but it only takes a few dry days to make the grasses, twigs and duff dry enough to easily spread fire.

Always review the weather forecast before you start any outdoor fires. Before burning ditches, fields, slash or debris, call dispatch at 565-8454 and let your neighbors know of your plans and the precautions you have taken to burn safely.

Dispatch will advise you of unfavorable weather conditions or red flag warnings, which prohibit burning. Never leave your fire unattended. This includes making sure the coals are out cold before you walk away.

We should be aware of other residents who seem to be burning in unsafe conditions or leave fires unattended, but monsoon season has also brought lightning-strike fires for which we should be on the lookout.

An amazing view of the Four Corners Region from Park Point in Mesa Verde is often the first place where fire starts are seen. Staff members can pinpoint the location of smoke, making a quicker response from the appropriate jurisdiction.

Many fires are reported first by residents whose eyes and noses can find smoldering strikes that might take off when conditions change.

Two tools that are available to track lightning strikes are Blitzortung Lightning Monitor for Android (gives live lightning-strike location data) and Holdover Hunter (provides email, phone and text alerts of lightning strikes within two miles of your location, including the likelihood of them igniting and growing into a reportable fire).

There may be other great tools available for residents to locate lightning strikes, but if you are interested in finding lightning strikes before things dry out and they become fires in your neighborhood, these tools may be helpful to you.

A lightning strike, heating the path it travels to temperatures hotter than the sun, also poses risks to our homes and offices.

You can usually protect these structures by providing an alternate path for the lightning to travel into the ground than through the wooden structure. A lightning protection system including a lightning rod with a grounded conductor can provide a path of least resistance for the charged particles in the clouds and ground to neutralize, making a safer path for the lightning strike than through your roof and walls.

There are many systems available on the market or that you can create yourself. Often the greatest challenge is driving the grounding rod into our shale or sandstone bedrock.

To protect your electronics from lightning strikes, surge protectors are not sufficient. A gas-filled lightning arrester or unplugging power and other wiring to your electronic devices can protect your equipment from surges caused by lightning.

Enjoy watching the lightning while you're unplugged, and take advantage of the days with high humidity to use your chain saw and burn your slash piles.

For more info about thinning for forest health and wildfire risk reduction while getting your firewood, contact Rebecca Samulski at 564-4007 or montezumafirewise@gmail.com.