Patt Morrison for June 28, 2012

Living in fire country

Colorado's High Park Fire Burns 37,000 Acres, Forces Evacuations

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Flames erupt atop a ridge near Horsetooth Reservoir on June 11, 2012 near Laporte, Colorado. The High Park Fire in Larimer County has burned almost 37,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 100 structures. There is no containment of the fire, which is burning in the mountains about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Co.

When most people think of Colorado, they think of winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. So how can so much of the state be on fire? Actually, much of the state’s ecosystem is high desert, and it’s been a dry year. Combine this drought with a lack of snow pack and plenty of dead trees due to extensive insect kill, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster – and Colorado is not the only state feeling the heat.

Over twenty-nine active fires are burning throughout the West, including in the states of Arizona, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Thus far this year Southern California has been spared a fire as drastic as the Waldo Canyon fire, which forced the evacuations of 32,000, but according to the U.S. Forest service, the fire season is now 78 days longer, on average, than in the mid-1980s, so we should count on seeing more action before the season is through.

WEIGH IN:

What does it take to embrace living in an ecosystem with a natural fire cycle, and are we prepared for the next big blaze?

Guest:

Andrea Chalfin, News Director at KRCC / NPR Member Station for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico

Tom Scott, natural resource specialist at University of California, Berkeley (housed at U.C. Riverside)


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