COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The peak of Colorado's wildfire season became apparent this week with major fires already burning, and with Friday being the eighth anniversary of the devastating Black Forest Fire.
Our cool, wet spring produced lots of green, thick and high-growing grasses, weeds and other vegetation in our dry climate.
However, with the arrival of summertime weather, that vegetation may quickly dry out and become potential fuel for fires.
The situation is more of a concern in overgrown vacant lots and parcels that are near homes and other property. But a vacant home on Circle Drive has grasses up to six feet high in its front yard. Several notices from the city have been posted on the front door.
"No one has lived there for 13 years," a next-door neighbor explained. "I'd like to buy the house and flip it, but I haven't been able to find the owner."
Mitch Hammes, director of Neighborhood Services, said that a city ordinance limits grass height in yards to a maximum of nine inches.
"Repeat violators can be cited, fined and even have to reimburse the city for the cost of mowing," he said. "Normally, we enforce only around 10% of violations because the problem is corrected after we talk with homeowners. I think with the rain we've had, people haven't mowed as much as they should, and the warmer temperatures the past week have caused an explosion of growth."
During unusually wet weather in 2015, work crews in Colorado Springs and El Paso County fell weeks behind in mowing -- because there was a lot to mow and wet ground made it difficult to use heavy equipment.
A city spokesman said Friday that crews haven't fallen behind this season and are finishing their first round of mowing. The only problem, he said, is finding enough seasonal workers and getting them trained.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department reports seeing an increase in homeowners registering for its Firewise program, in which the department provides an at-home analysis of fire risk and arranges to remove excess fire fuels gathered in neighborhood cleanups.
Compared to even just a month ago, we have at least 15 to 20 homeowners a day, calling in to set up these on-site consultations," said Melissa Hoffman, the department's wildfire mitigation specialist. "So they're certainly keeping us busy. We love to have those phone calls coming in because we love going out to homeowners' properties to educate them on what they can do around their home."
The fire department recommends keeping grasses trimmed even lower -- to four inches.
To learn more about Firewise USA for Colorado Springs, click here.