By Claire Barber | Image by Jubilee Hernandez
Hazy sunsets and an obscured Pikes Peak bring an ominous embrace to the Front Range. Wildfires are raging across the state, causing evacuations and smoke-filled skies.
There seems to be a lot to catch our attention these days: COVID-19, police brutality and corresponding protests, hurricanes bearing down on the Texas and Louisiana coastlines, and familiar to the West and Southwest – wildfires. This calendar year seems to have thrown us into the belly of the beast: the burning, flooding, hot, cold, and outright terrifying monster that is anthropogenic climate change. I’ll try not to get all doomsday here, but 2020 might (and given IPCC predictions is likely) just the tip of the iceberg of what we’ll see in the next decade. Yes, disease spread is influenced by climate change, as is hurricane severity, as is wildfire. Inequality along racial and economic lines is also exacerbated by climate change.
Oh, and yes, climate change is predicted to worsen … but you already probably knew that.
Take a breath (or maybe don’t … it could be smoky out there), relax, and let’s chat Colorado fires for a bit. The Colorado Springs area has seen severe wildfire in recent years, including the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire that burned 347 homes and whose burn scar precipitated severe flooding in Manitou Springs in 2013. Events like the fires occurring now and the ones that have happened in Colorado Springs in the past will likely only be exacerbated by climate change. According to the Colorado Springs Climate Vulnerability and Response Assessment written in 2019, there is a predicted “temperature increase for the southwest of 3.4F-4.3F for mid-century and 4.3F-7.2F for late century.” Additionally, the same report states that “[f]rom 1979-2015, climate change accounted for 55% of the increase in fuel aridity in western U.S. forests.” In other words, science and mother nature are pointing us towards a dry and hot trajectory.
For this season, so far, worries of evacuation or fire haven’t come to our cozy corner of Colorado – but paying attention to the season is important and eye-opening, and might help to inform our future.
Here is a quick run-down of the fires happening in Colorado now.
The Pine Gulch wildfire is the second largest wildfire in the Colorado’s history at 134,108 acres. It began after a lightning strike on July 31 and is 47 percent contained as of this writing. 932 personnel are working on its suppression and it is located 18 miles from Grand Junction on Bureau of Land Management and private land. The raging fire is a testament to drought conditions spanning the state: the area is experiencing extreme and severe drought conditions and annual precipitation is still sitting under three inches, where Grand Junction’s annual count usually rounds off at 10.
Follow and tune into their Facebook page for updated information: https://www.facebook.com/PineGulchFireCO/?ref=page_internal
The Williams Fork wildfire began on August 14 and was human-caused. The fire spans the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland seven miles Southwest of Fraser, Colorado, and is 5 percent contained as of this writing, spanning over 11,000 acres. The fire is expected to continue burning until sustained rains or snow can extinguish it.
Follow and tune into their Facebook page for updated information: https://www.facebook.com/williamsforkfire
The Grizzly Creek wildfire started burning on August 10 and is 33 percent contained as of this writing, requiring 804 total personnel, and the cause is under investigation. Grizzly Creek is currently one mile north of Glenwood Springs and forced a temporary two-week I-70 closure.
Follow and tune into their Facebook page for updated information: https://www.facebook.com/GrizzlyCreekFireCO
The Cameron Peak wildfire was ignited on August 13 and is burning in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests near Cameron Pass and Chambers Lake. The cause is under investigation and the fire has burned 20,118 acres and has required 722 active responders as of this writing.
Follow and tune into their Facebook page for updated information: https://www.facebook.com/CameronPeakFire
For a comprehensive list of wildfires in North America visit: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/