At this point of the summer in any given year, conservationists usually do not have highest concerns about the volumes of forests and tree groves in Wildwood because the groundcover underneath them has enough moisture to help ward off forest fires, said Rockwoods Reservation area manager Gus Raeker.
"However, this year, we're in different territory," said Raeker. "Comparatively speaking, it's as dry now as it usually is in August—we're about two months ahead of our natural cycle of dryness."
Raeker said outdoor enthusiasts need to careful and to watch even more during this coming week. "It's not as extreme today as it's going to get, but we're starting to get concerned."
Rockwoods Reservation, headquartered from Glencoe Road, is managed by Missouri Department of Conservation employees. The area provides hiking trails, picnic areas and a museum year-round. Its rich diversity of plant and animal life, as well as springs, caves, and rock formations, was preserved starting in 1938—yielding a fairly mature forest spanning 1,880 acres.
Reservation team members are the ones who place the Smokey Bear fire warning signs along Missouri Route 109 and elsewhere. They have five levels:
- Green = Low Concern/Alert
- Blue = Moderate Alert
- Yellow = High Alert
- Orange = Very High Alert
- Red = Extreme Alert
At the time this article was published, Raeker said they were on blue/moderate alert, contemplating going to yellow/high alert status. Visitors to the conservation education area are not allowed to start any type of grilling or barbecue-related flames if the area is designated with a red alert. He said red alert status typically is decided upon by the National Weather Service.
Raeker said in Missouri, ground fires are the concern, which means fires spread via the leaves and debris beneath the trees. The state has a total of 42,640,000 acres protected by MDC. Debris is the second largest cause of fires annually, according to MDC statistics, cited as causing 41 percent of flare ups. These fires spread differently than the canopy-type fires currently ravaging areas near Colorado Springs, CO.
"The fires they have in Colorado often have 200-foot flames, and leap from tree top to tree top," he said.
The Colorado blaze, dubbed the "Waldo Canyon Fire," already charred 6,200 acres as of late Tuesday night, and was only 5 percent contained, reports AccuWeather.com.
More than 32,000 people were ordered to evacuate across El Paso County, CO, including nearly 10,000 in the city limits of Colorado Springs, reports AccuWeather.com.
The Colorado fires are spreading due to the same conditions that experts are alerting Missourians about: record-challenging heat; gusty winds; low humidity.