EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - An El Paso County community had a close call that strong winds and dry conditions didn't fan a grass fire into nearby piles of tumbleweeds, a fire chief said Tuesday.
Carl Tatum of the Hanover Fire Department said he was worried that the 13-acre fire would spread into mounds of tumbleweeds that have accumulated since they were produced in record numbers by heavy rain last fall.
Tatum said that fortunately, firefighters controlled and extinguished the grass fire before it could spread farther. However, he said the fear of tumbleweeds providing extra fuel for a fire, or bouncing to start fires, has been an issue since fall and has renewed with the arrival of peak wildfire season.
"Once (tumbleweeds) catch fire, they burn hot and fast," Tatum said. "If a (burning) tumbleweed starts rolling, it can go right over the top of your fire line and start a fire somewhere else."
Because many people have tried to remove tumbleweeds on private property by burning them, authorities ask that before doing so, you check with your local fire department or fire district.
Meanwhile, El Paso County plans to begin using specialized equipment next week designed to remove tumbleweeds from roadside ditches. County officials said they have been "running behind" in using the equipment because of "unexpected mechanical issues."