While the Front Range hasn’t seen a wildfire of note yet in 2017, Colorado wildfires are multiplying, air is hazing up and even some of the ash and airborne particles are blowing in from the Western Slope.
Eagle, Grand, and Summit Counties are the hardest hit counties, with fire bans active and thousands of acres on fire. According to officials, more than 15,000 acres are or have been on fire, spread across nine fires. Hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to the area. While the fires have yet to threaten settlements or homes, wind and dry weather prompted federal authorities to start controlling the flames, mainly centered in Bureau of Land Management lands. Lightning strikes are the cause of most of the current fires – most of which have been contained. The small Lightner Creek fire was human-caused, and did cause temporary evacuations. Residents have been allowed to return home, as the fire is now contained.
While severe fire restrictions are still not in effect on the Front Range, it’s a reminder to take care with campfires, cigarettes, and other flammable elements, while in the forest, in common areas, and in fields of tall native grasses.
Forest fires are a natural way for forests to rejuvenate themselves. However, as more homes are built, the areas where fire mitigation and prescribed burns are required also increase – with the paradoxical result of controlling smaller fires, but leaving potential for much larger fires, since the natural balance of fire and regrowth is disrupted.
Over the past decades that balance has been mitigated by fire control policies that try to allow forest fires to do their natural work, while also keeping it safe for residents. And the promotion of timber harvesting, in conjunction with the natural process of the pine beetle and the spruce beetle – which wiped out millions of acres of standing pine and spruce trees – has also reduced the amount of “fuel” that fires need to become large and dangerous to human habitation.
More on fire mitigation: Flammable Shrubs Could Pose Fire Hazard, Slow Insurance Approval
Colorado Wildfires 2017 Roar as Temperatures Soar