A red flag warning is in effect for Southwest Colorado from noon to 10 p.m. Monday as strong winds, coupled with extremely dry conditions, pose critical fire danger for the region.
Montezuma County’s fire ban is in effect on Monday.
The resolution for the ban was enacted in early April at the request of Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin and local fire chiefs. Beginning April 16, no open fires or use of fireworks will be allowed in unincorporated Montezuma County. A series of recent brush fires triggered the ban, officials said.
The fire ban was enacted just two days after a brush fire quickly spread near U.S. Highway 160 and County Road A on April 7 and forced the evacuation of a family that lives north of the Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc. The Cortez Fire Protection District was called to the scene about 4 p.m. The Ute Mountain Ute and Lewis-Arriola fire departments also responded. U.S. Highway 160 was closed for about two hours.
Similar weather conditions will exist on Monday.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction says strong southwest winds are expected across much of western Colorado and eastern Utah starting Monday afternoon and lasting until the evening.
“A combination of low relative humidity, strong wind gusts and dry fuels will result in critical fire weather conditions across Colorado,” the weather service said.
Winds during this time are expected to be around 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Monday has a high temperature near 66 degrees. Relative humidity is expected to hover around 6 to 11 percent.
As a result, the NWS said, “new fires may be difficult or impossible to control due to fast rates of spread. Outdoor burning is strongly discouraged.”
These strong winds are ahead of a cold front that’s set to move into the region Tuesday, which will cause temperatures to drop.
On Tuesday, there’s an expected high of 50 degrees, with breezy conditions picking up in the afternoon. Wind gusts could get as high as 35 mph, the weather service said.
The rest of the week is expected to be sunny and mostly clear, with daytime highs ranging between 55 to 65 degrees. No precipitation is in the forecast in Montezuma County for the rest of the week, according to the weather service.
In higher elevations around the San Juan Mountains, however, there is a slight chance for some snow Tuesday afternoon, and again Thursday night into Friday,.
Jonathan Romeo of The Durango Herald contributed to this article.