This is timely & appropriate. Most readers have no idea what it takes to keep fires from burning homes.
“We know now that it’s not just dry conditions that drive fires,” said Craig Allen, a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “There’s enough data that show fires are very clearly linked to warming – warming that’s been going on throughout this region for years. Fire season’s about two months longer than it used to be in the West in the last 25 years.”
That was the startling conclusion and nearly unanimous opinion of politicians, federal officials, scientists and advocates gathered at the “Forests at Risk” symposium in Aspen earlier this week – a gathering hosted by the nonpartisan Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
The meetings came as Denver set an all-time temperature record of 105 degrees, the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire was blowing up west of Colorado Springs, the record-breaking High Park Fire continues to rage near Fort Collins, and Colorado politicians are imploring the federal government for more help.
“We are seeing larger and more intense fires throughout the country,” said Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service. “Since 2000, 10 states, mainly in the West, have experienced record fires. These fires have enormous costs. Our fire suppression budget can exceed a billion dollars. Our fire preparedness budget can exceed a billion dollars.”
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But huge stands of uniformly aging trees untouched by fire for decades (because of costly federal and state fire suppression policies) are fueling increasingly intense fires that leave landscapes so devastated that forests aren’t regenerating naturally, according to the USGS’s Allen, who has seen large swaths of his home state of New Mexico turned into barren grasslands.
“There is enough of a flat earth society that still believes there is no climate change when we are living it every day,” said Gail Schwartz, an Aspen-area Democratic state senator. “It’s very, very difficult when 80 percent of our population is on the Front Range and they are not willing to understand the relationship between water and our forests.”
Drought and beetle-bark infested forests make for a lot of fuel. Most fire begin as an act of nature, i.e. a lightning strike and they never happen where they are easy to get at.
So, you have fire fighters working 14 – 16 hour days. When I was with the US Forest Service, they would rotate people in and out every 14 days. There are support personnel to feed them, to pay them, to wash their clothes, to contract with civilians to provide services to the fire organization. The fire I was on, the Skalkaho Incident, had almost a thousand people assigned.