Dry year = roaring fires | VailDaily.com

Dry year = roaring fires

Don Rogers

Mount Doom in this case was the Flat Tops, where a wildfire the Forest Service felt safe letting burn as recently as a day ago now suddenly threatened about 50 backcountry structures, and prompted a by now familiar round of evacuations. Even the battle-tested Forest Service was fooled, it seems.

The fire is eating up blown-down, beetle-killed spruce trees still around since the 1940s and ’50s. This is not a bad thing, but in this summer’s drought and with the return of dry, dry air, firefighting work turns out to be needed after all.

The fire started as a lightning strike July 18 and had creeped around up to 50 acres by this week. Then it grew to about 300 acres, still OK up to Thursday morning. And then it raced past 1,500 acres Thursday afternoon, and could well approach 10,000 acres before it is done. In a dry, hot summer of 100,000-plus-acre burns, this can’t be considered much of a surprise.

If this truly is the driest that this part of Colorado has been in 500 years, suffice to say the local fire conditions are naturally going to be rather more volatile than firefighters have seen over entire careers.

And bear in mind this isn’t over. Surely the guardians of the White River National Forest understand this message from Mother Nature. It’s a simple one.

Icon passes

With sadness we note the death of outdoor photographer and writer Galen Rowell, a legend in climbing circles. He and his wife, Barbara Cushman Rowell, along with their pilot and another passenger, all died in a small plane crash last Sunday near Bishop, Calif. He was 61, too young. Many of us with an outdoor bent admired his photos in National Geographic, Outside and various books if we were lucky enough to get ahold of them. He wrote some, too, a true all-around talent. He even wrote on at least one occasion for the Mountain Gazette, based now in Summit County.

Slow going

The vote counting for one race of consequence in Eagle County, for an election that attracted less than 10 percent of the electorate, was positively glacial. True, the race in question came down to Joyce Mack leading unofficially by just eight votes over incumbent Assessor Jody Caruthers, a lead that grew to 13 votes in the end. But it’s unimaginable that counting and recounting the tally would take Tuesday night, all of Wednesday and most of Thursday. Fall will be a tad more challenging. D.R.

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