World News – United States – Colorado fire season lasts longer than usual


DENVER – Orange skies, gusty winds up to 70mph, tornadoes of smoke and dangerous air Although it may be an apocalyptic scene from a movie, it has become the Colorado wildfire season reality

The fires burned down the second largest area since 2000, and included the two largest on record in the state One of Colorado’s smallest fires exploded Wednesday night, growing to 30 square miles (78 square kilometers) to 196 square miles (508 square kilometers) and closed the Rocky Mountain National Park

Normally, snow helps alleviate the devastation this time of year, but drought in Colorado and warming temperatures have dragged out the season, said Jennifer Balch, fire specialist.
« We don’t see such large October fires, » she said

The Colorado fires haven’t destroyed as many homes as the wildfires that have made headlines in California and the Pacific Northwest in recent months, but they have worn out residents already tired of the coronavirus pandemic

Glen Akins said the smoke had grown thick and dark enough that the streetlights came on during the day he lives in the northern Colorado town of Fort Collins where a nearby fire in the foothills took off. burned over 318 square miles (824 square kilometers) to become the largest in state history

As a cyclist, Akins’ daily routine now includes checking the weather and smoke forecast before going out. He also packed up in case of an evacuation order

Akins said « with a little work » he planned to walk between the smoke from two fires in Wyoming and Colorado

« I was in a pocket of clean air perfectly trapped between the smoke from Cameron Peak Fire to the south and the smoke from Mullen Fire to the north, » Akins said

In parts of Colorado, the skies were gray, the sun hazy, and the smell of a scorching campfire lingered through much of September and October The Denver metro area and the Eastern Plains were blanketed with smoke from fires not only in Colorado but also in Utah, California, and Wyoming

As the season began with limited destruction of property, two fires broke out last weekend in Boulder which burned down 26 homes One of them belonged to Brian DeToy and Sheryl Shafer

The couple were packing their bags on Saturday afternoon when firefighters arrived to evacuate the homes At that point, they had only a few minutes to escape the roaring « landscape of hell » on a ridge all the way to their home, DeToy said Although they could see the smoke behind them, the couple remained hopeful

« As Sheryl and I packed our bags, I think in each of our minds was that we were going to come back. It may take hours, days, but we will be back, » DeToy said

The next morning the sheriff’s office confirmed that their house had been destroyed. For now, they are staying with friends

« From Sunday evening to Monday morning Sheryl and I woke up in the middle of the night and cried for an hour and a half, » he said

More than 700 square miles of land burned in Colorado at a cost of more than $ 215 million – and the numbers continue to rise, according to Larry Helmerick, fire intelligence coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center

A fire that started in July and was finally brought under control in mid-September near the town of Grand Junction in western Colorado has become the largest in state history – charring more than 217 square miles It was only a month later that the fire that burns near Fort Collins, called Cameron Peak Fire, set another record This fire is still spreading, with firefighters having contained just over half of the fire on Thursday

Officials say it’s possible it may merge with a nearby fire that exploded overnight, shutting down Rocky Mountain National Park and forcing residents and around an entrance town to evacuate
Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and forest fires

This year has been marked by drought, which has intensified forest fires, said Balch, director of the Earth Lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which focuses on analyzing data on environmental change The US Drought Monitor has designated all of Colorado as unusually dry or drought for the first time in eight years, with many areas labeled « extreme » or « severe »

It is « only a matter of time » until the threat affects more people, who move closer to the forests, says Balch

« If I had a panic button I would push it – because we have put millions of homes at risk in western US ”, said Balch

Additionally, the air quality has deteriorated enough in some areas that Gov Jared Polis has urged people to stay indoors to avoid the health effects of smoke which are made worse by the coronavirus

Poor air quality contributes to breathing problems that people may face due to the virus or if they have asthma, emphysema or acute bronchitis, which can lead to more emergency room visits, said Colleen Reid, assistant professor of geography at the University of Boulder which studies the effects of climate change on public health

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The long forest fire season has taken its toll amid another crisis

« During the pandemic we were told that if you want to get together with friends or something, you better be outside, but now we have all of our outdoor spaces closed because of the fire » , Akin told me « So it’s kind of a double whammy It really has an impact on how we have dealt with the pandemic »

Nieberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Corps Statehouse News Initiative Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret matters

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News from around the world – United States – Colorado fire season lasts longer than usual



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