Eagle County luck so far | VailDaily.com

Eagle County luck so far

Don Rogers

Drought, wind, high temperatures for Colorado. All we lacked was an ignition source. And cruel coincidence, in over 90 years of burning underground, that simmering coal seam just west of Glenwood picked this time to flick the surface.

Incredibly, the resulting wildfire crossed the Colorado River and Interstate 70 in its afternoon and evening dash, raking northern and western Glenwood along the way.

And this was only June 8. Springtime.

At the same time, an illegal campfire ignited what’s already the biggest fire in Colorado history, the Hayman Fire that swelled Monday to more than 75,000 acres and may yet get a whole lot bigger before the weather breaks enough for fire crews to catch up.

Eagle County wildlands, particularly at the western and northern parts covered by pinion pine and juniper brush, are every bit as vulnerable as the other parts of the state now burning. We dodged a bullet Saturday when the brush fire near the county landfill in Wolcott moved from the P-J into less-explosive (for now) sage and the wind hadn’t yet quite kicked up enough to ground the air tankers largely responsible for catching this one at 40 acres.

People who live in Eagle County neighborhoods and stray homes plunked in the wildlands ought to be nervous.

One fault in building in these places, where the forest or brush meets civilization in this county is that we haven’t done much of a job making sure the homes have more safeguards than most do against wildfire. Perhaps the biggest problem is allowing too much growth too close to homes, which will put anyone trying to protect such a home in advance of a fire, including professional firefighters, at too much risk.

We know the county has been moving toward stricter rules for new construction, and that is better than continuing to ignore the inevitable. So while keeping a cap on the clucking over what took so long, let’s support this effort for the future. It will save a life as well as property someday.

Meantime, does it go without saying to advise great, great care with fire right now? Even day hikers need to be prudent, and alert for the chance of fire. Several needed to be airlifted from the path of the giant Hayman Fire last weekend.

Without the rains – and maybe even with them – still forecasted to fall in “normal” amounts come summer, Colorado’s forests have been allowed to grow too dense and old over the past century. This has left them vulnerable to disease and insects such as the pine beetles now wreaking some havoc, and even more so for great fires. Mother Nature’s lottery seems right now to have our number. D.R.

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