wildfire

In early August three years ago, Barb Horn stood along the banks of the Animas River in the city of Durango, Colorado. Word had spread of a mine waste spill upstream near Silverton. She waited, alongside hundreds of others, for the waste to appear. But the plume took longer than expected and eventually arrived at night.

The next morning, she saw the change.

“It was absolutely surreal,” Horn says. “And I think that's why it went viral. It’s like somebody photoshopped the river orange.”

With wildfires burning through much of the West, there’s high demand for big aircraft to come in and battle the flames from above.

Over the last 30 years, the West has seen an uptick in the size and frequency of forest fires. Scientists have typically attributed the change to low snowpack and high summer temperatures. But researchers writing in the journal PNAS say the trend could have more to do with rain.

Researchers pulled up maps of forest wildfires from 1979 to 2016 and compared those maps against data on snow, rain, temperature and humidity.

As California's enormous wildfires continue to set records for the second year in a row, state lawmakers are scrambling to close gaps in state law that could help curb future fires, or make the difference between life and death once a blaze breaks out.

Since the Holy Fire ignited Monday in Orange County, Calif., the blaze ravaged more than 10,000 acres, destroyed at least 12 structures and forced more than 21,000 people to evacuate their homes by Thursday night. But amid all these grim and rising numbers, California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has listed just one cause: "human."

Record-breaking wildfires in California have prompted tweets from President Trump and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They blame the fires on “bad environmental laws,” too many dead or dying trees, and not enough logging.

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

As firefighters work to contain a deadly wildfire in Northern California, now the largest in the state's history, another fire is rapidly expanding, threatening new communities and prompting fresh evacuations.

Colorado Department of Transportation Facebook

The Spring Fire burning in southern Colorado is now 55% contained, up from 43% on Saturday. It's burned 106,985 acres. The Colorado Department of Transportation has reopened Highway 160 between La Veta and Fort Garland. Colorado Highway 12 remains closed from La Veta to Cuchara Pass. Colorado 69 will also stay closed from near Walsenburg to the Huerfano/Custer County Line. Local traffic will be allowed on 69; proof of residence is required.

Courtesy Spring Fire 2018 Facebook page

The Spring Fire continues to grow quickly, with reports showing a burn area of more than 94,125 acres. That's an increase of 10,000 acres since previously reported. Containment has remained steady at 5%. Most of the land is under private ownership, while state and federal lands are also affected.

@CSP_Alamosa/Twitter

The total acreage burned by the Spring Fire continues to grow. As of Tuesday morning, officials say 78,941 acres, more than 120 square miles has been effect. The containment level of the fire decreased to 5% Tuesday, down from 10% the day before. 104 homes are confirmed destroyed.

BLM, Esri, HERE, Garmin, USGS, NGA, EPA, USDA, NPS / Inciweb

Authorities have arrested a suspect on arson charges related to the Spring Fire burning in Costilla and Huerfano Counties in southern Colorado. Jesper Jorgenson, 52, was arrested without incident by Costilla County deputies in an investigation that also included the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, state arson investigators, Colorado State Patrol, and Immigration and Customs agents. The investigation is still ongoing, and no further information is available.

By Don McCullough / Wikimedia Commons

Fires are burning in Colorado, Utah and there’s fire danger in other parts of the Mountain West. Now three U.S. Congressmen from Colorado have introduced legislation that would make it a felony to fly a drone over a wildfire. Drones can make fighting fires more difficult and put lives at risk.

courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation

Update 5:39 p.m., Friday 6/29/18: In Huerfano County, mandatory evacuations are in place for residents in Tres Valles, Paradise Acres, Raspberry Mountain, Pine Haven, and the Cuchara Valley. At this time, La Veta is not part of the mandatory evacuation but remains on pre-evacuation notice. 

Any large animals being held at the 4H barn in La Veta can stay, but a secondary location is open at the Las Animas County Fairgrounds.

Looking To History To Combat Wildfires

Jun 14, 2018

As at least half a dozen fires in Colorado force hundreds to evacuate, and have closed a national forest, some residents say they're shocked at how quickly the fire has spread. The speed of wildfires is actually something Colorado ecologists have been studying, and they say history may provide clues on how to slow it down.

United States Drought Monitor

Hot, dry weather is forcing fire bans across southern Colorado. Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs are the latest to enact restrictions.

Each summer, thousands of firefighters devote long hours to putting out wildfires. At the end of each day, they retreat to camp a safe distance away where they can relax and recharge to be ready for their next shift. And also get fed. For the Mountain West News Bureau’s Faces Behind the Fire series, we talk to the man in charge of the kitchen.

 


Rowdy Muir started fighting fires on the front lines when he was 27.

Every summer, it takes a village to fight wildfires. For this upcoming season, we spoke with all kinds of people that lend a hand, from those on the frontlines, to others working a bit further back from the flames. For the Faces Behind the Fire series, Maggie Mullen talked to an archeologist with the U.S. Forest Service who helps decide what needs be preserved and what can be left to burn.


Wildfire season is ramping up across our region. There are all sorts of people involved in waiting, watching and fighting them -- people you might not expect. We’re profiling some of them in a series, Faces Behind The Fires.


Wildfire season is ramping up across our region. There are all sorts of people involved in waiting, watching and fighting them -- people you might not expect. We’re profiling some of them in a series, Faces Behind The Fires.

Lyle St. Goddard, 56, is running along a dirt trail on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.  

“It takes me about a lap to loosen up,” he said.

Being a hotshot is a young man’s game.

“I still can do it,” St. Goddard, one of the oldest crew members in the country, said. “I just got to keep in shape. I’ll be okay.”

Fremont County Sheriff's Department

Fire season is here again. Coming up over the next few days 91.5 KRCC will be introducing you to some of the people on the frontlines—and that doesn't just mean firefighters and smokejumpers. The series from the Mountain West News Bureau will focus on the people behind the scenes.

Nate Hegyi is a reporter based in Montana with the Mountain West News Bureau.

On who will be included in the series: 

El Paso County PIO, Twitter

 

Conditions across southern Colorado are dry, and they’re expected to stay that way as we move into the summer months. That has officials preparing for what could be a difficult fire season.

Coastal communities across the country are suing oil companies for contributing to climate change. Now, a lawsuit in the landlocked interior joins the list.

At the heart of the lawsuit is this realization: Climate change is expensive. Just look at worsening wildfires and floods nationally. 

El Paso County PIO, Twitter

--- Update 4/19/18, 9:45 p.m. ---

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is reporting that the #117Fire has been completely contained.

--- Update 4/19/18, 7:30 a.m. ---

The #117Fire is now estimated at 60% containment, with little to no growth. It remains nearly 41,000 acres. The state's Type II team has officially taken over command of fighting the fire as of 6 a.m. There's a new fire information phone number: 719-428-5223 (from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.).

National Weather Service-Pueblo

Evacuations are in place as firefighters throughout southern Colorado battle multiple fires. 

Gallup

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans do believe in climate change. The poll shows 66% of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 64% believe it is caused by human activities, and 60% believe its effects have already begun.

For years, Western lawmakers have been trying to change the way we fight wildfires, or at least the way the government funds such work. Now, they may finally get that wish. Congress just passed a measure that would do just that, creating an emergency fund of $20 billion for the Forest Service to fight wildfires over the next decade. It's part of a sweeping new spending deal that the President signed on Friday.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been pushing for years to make this change.

Colorado Springs FIre Department @CSFDPIO

Residents who have been evacuated due to a fire along the El Paso-Pueblo County line can start returning to their homes, with the exception of three locations. The fire, which started Friday on Fort Carson near a training exercise, has burned 3300 acres and is 80% contained as of late afternoon Saturday. 

Colorado Springs FIre Department @CSFDPIO

7:00 p.m.: In a press briefing Friday evening, officials confirmed that several structures have been lost in the fire, but said no loss of life or injury has been reported. El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said most of the threatened structures are believed to be safe at this point, and that fire crews are focused now on extinguishing the blaze. He said he hopes the fire will be out before midnight.

A spokesperson for Fort Carson explained that the blaze -- which was sparked on Fort Carson and joined up with another flare up that started in the area yesterday -- began in the vicinity of a training exercise that was being conducted on post. He added that the training was necessary and could not have been delayed, despite red flag fire conditions in the region Friday.

National Weather Service

Days of warm temperatures, high winds, and low humidity across the southern Colorado region have seen Red Flag Warnings and a number of fires crop up. A Red Flag Warning means conditions are ideal for the start and spread of wildfires, including dry fuels, low relative humidities, and gusty winds.

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