Wetter conditions reduce Colorado wildfire danger
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Gov. Bill Ritter says wetter than usual conditions have reduced the fire danger this year but the state is ready if there is a major wildfire on the Western Slope.
Officials have warned that the continuing bark beetle infestation has left Colorado’s high country at risk of a major fire.
National Guard Staff Sgt. Mark Belo said Thursday at the state’s annual wildfire briefing that helicopters are on standby to head to the mountains if residents need to be rescued.
“You’re going to have towns that are completely surrounded” if there is a major fire, Belo said.
Ritter said Colorado could cash in on the natural disaster if the federal government would change the rules and allow the dead wood to be harvested to make biofuels that could produce electricity.
The pine beetle epidemic, which hit Colorado in 1996, has spread to more than 3,000 square miles in the state.
The beetles burrow into trees to lay eggs, leaving behind a deadly fungus that rots out trees and makes them vulnerable to fire.