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How in the World Did Lightning From Wednesday Spark the High Park Fire Saturday?

lightning
Qualsiasi, Flickr

I often wonder when there is a huge tragedy like a wildfire that destroys homes and peoples lives, why we worry so much about what caused it while there is other work to be done. Human nature, I guess is the answer. We look so quickly to blame someone, to make someone a villain. With the High Park Fire though, the villain was mother nature. Officials say lightning started the now 41,000 acre fire. But the fire didn’t get going until Saturday, and we hadn’t had lightning since Wednesday. How does that work?

7News Meteorologist Matt Makens researched data for lightning strikes within 15 miles of the High Park fire and found there were 339 Wednesday night from 8:53 p.m. to 10:33 p.m., but there were no other strikes recorded before the fire was noticed Saturday morning.

Surprisingly, that’s not uncommon. That is what South Metro Fire’s Capt. Matt Holm told 7News.

With heavier fuels, like large trees, it’s possible that fire just sat there and smoldered.”When that fuel heats up to the right temperate and gets some wind, then it will ignite, and that’s when the fire is typically noticed,” said Holm.He said 15 percent of wildfires are started by lightning strikes, and even though Wednesday’s storm did have some rain with it, there could have been a lot of cloud to ground lightning after the rainfall.The area also has several beetle-killed trees, adding fuel to the fire. The rough terrain is also making it difficult for fire crews to battle the massive wildfire.

Again, the cause is irrelevant when it comes to the fact that folks are losing homes, animals, and now even their lives. But, it does make you feel a tiny bit better when you realize that this was just mother nature running her course, and not a humans stupidity causing this tragedy.

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