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Burn now or burn later

Don Rogers

One is that only a third of the fire burned at high intensity, mainly during three “blow-up” days when the temperature approached 100, the humidity hit record lows and the wind was howling. On those days, the fire ripped through everything, including thinned forest, according to a report from the Wilderness Society, which of course has an agenda like every other dang political group.

The Wilderness Society noted that there are lots of roads in the Hayman Fire area, that the fire burned through thinned areas on the blow-up days just as much as the dense forest and asserted that thinning doesn’t matter in extreme weather conditions. The good society is flat wrong on the last part – thinning makes a big difference, especially near civilization – but makes great points about the burn area as a whole.

“Only 44,000 acres or so were left a “moonscape” or “nuclear winter,” as our governor might put it. The rest of the area burned with just the right low intensity to clean out the underbrush, dead material and saplings to make the remaining timber healthier. A lot of the area inside the fire’s boundaries didn’t burn at all, forming a mosaic that’s good for the forest.

Of course, a bunch of dwellings and other structures burned – 133 homes. 466 outbuildings and one commercial structure. Such is the cost of building in danger zones.

By far the best measures man can take now are to form and enforce commonsense wildland building and clearance regulations, as Eagle County has found the will to implement – and then to step up in the arena of controlled burns.

Yes, “controlled” burns can turn otherwise, as the National Park Service’s botched blaze in Los Alamos a couple of years back proved. It helps when the overseers have the lick of sense to check the weather before lighting.

And indeed there are nut cases such as the Forest Service fire prevention tech who lit the Hayman Fire in the name of love.

But cold, sober, calculated burns on days when Mother Nature is not at her pyrotechnic worst will save homes and even lives in the end. The forests will burn, one way or the other, sooner or later. It’s just a matter of the intensity. Man can begin to recoup the mistakes of the past 100 years in trying to suppress all wildfires as quickly as possible, thereby setting up conflagration.

Or we can wait for those “perfect storm” conditions that lead to fires like the Hayman and some of the other ones last year, such as in and around Glenwood Springs.

Lots of snow now is great. Lots of rain through summer is even better. Can’t count on that, though.

D.R.


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