The Colorado House GOP reports, “Since 1996, the beetle-kill epidemic has destroyed 3.3 million acres of trees in Colorado. The US Forest Service has attributed high forest fire dangers with excessive amounts of beetle-kill trees, as well as diminished water supply and quality due to the effects of a withering forest canopy on the hydrological cycle.”
A Federal Type 1 Management Team has taken over management of the High Park fire which has burned over 37,000 acres and there is zero containment at this point. The fire is believed to have been started by lightning. This fire started as a two-acre brush fire but has flamed into a dangerous fire that has left one person missing and led to evacuation of hundreds of Colorado residents. “Right now we have a single person that we still can’t account for in a location that we believe someone could have burned,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said. The missing person lived on Old Flowers Road; however no additional information has been released at this time. Over 2600 evacuation calls have gone out to residents so far.
With a weather forecast calling for lighter winds and cooler temperatures, Mother Nature seems to be offering at least a little help for the firefighters battling this blaze. However, there is a chance for lightning and this could prove to be detrimental to the efforts to extinguish this raging fire.
With 250 firefighters currently fighting this blaze, hopes are high that containment will come at some point in the near future. Gov. Hickenlooper said, “We have one third of the heavy duty firefighting equipment in the United States right here in Colorado.” However, all of the high tech equipment does not accomplish much without the manpower to run it.
FEMA funding has been approved to help cover 75% of the costs of fighting the fire. These funds cannot be used to help individuals, however. To view the list of states receiving FEMA assistance, click here: http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema#
The sky is filled with a muggy smoke that makes it difficult to breathe at times, and several health warnings have been issued, including air quality warnings for the Front Range. These warnings have been issued for children, the elderly and people with respiratory issues.
Sen.issued a statement Sunday morning, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the hundreds of residents whose properties have been destroyed or are endangered in the High Park Fire. The hot, dry conditions that helped fuel this fire highlight the importance of having adequate resources to fight wildfire — from the brave firefighters and first responders on the ground to the aerial tankers providing support from above. I will continue to monitor the fire and the efforts to contain it to offer my support at the federal level.”
In the midst of all this tragedy and concern, one question stands out that appears to not be addressed: What role does the horrendous damage caused by mountain pine beetles play? "Dead and dying trees that were isolated to five northern Colorado counties last year can now be seen in some Front Range areas, as well as southern Wyoming," Regional Forester Rick Cables said in a statement released at the U.S. Forest Service regional office in Golden in 2008. "The bark infestation has spread dramatically. This is an unprecedented event."
Dead trees line the landscape all along the Front Range. These trees seem to be fire fuel simply waiting to be ignited. Mountainsides that were once full of beautiful green pine trees are now brown and dead. Concerns over fires during such dry conditions are always high, however the impact of the beetles simply seems to be ignored and not mentioned.
For livestreaming video of the fire, click here: http://www.9news.com/video/default.aspx?