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Wildlands ready to burn

Don Rogers

There’s the firefighter who it turns out to have admitted lighting the biggest fire in Colorado history, though investigators don’t seem quite ready to believe her tale of a letter from her estranged husband set afire in a regrettable moment of anger.

And there’s the portentous discovery of at least one thankfully tiny local fire set on purpose. Great, all we need are arsonists, fire bugs.

Southern California has been all too often plagued with these dangerous creatures, especially during the fall Santa Ana seasons, when the winds blow like hell from the mountains to the ocean.

We hope, fervently, that the lessons of Storm King for firefighters, just down the road at Glenwood Springs, hold through this scary-looking season that is still early, just nudging true summer.

If the temperatures aren’t quite as high, brush not quite as oily, or as dry, obviously the conditions merit treating Colorado wildfires with all the respect, and perhaps more, of the Southern California ragers.

Our wildlands are dry enough, and the winds have been blowing more or less since March. Barring monsoon, Colorado this season will take on another Southern California trait: the type of fire season resulting from little to no rain from May to October or November in the worst case.

As the firefighters take heed and treat each canyon as if it may blow out, people who live in the wild zone need to more carefully consider the proximity of their homes to the forest or scrubland around them. Hot spots include parts of Gypsum, Eagle, Edwards, Avon, Eagle-Vail, maybe even parts of that previously considered petrified forest around Vail.

It’s looking more and more like that kind of year. And so far June rainfall is continuing a pattern of not nearly normal. A dry monsoon season starting in July, one that is short of rain and heavy on lightning strikes, like Wednesday evening, could make things very interesting indeed around here. A nightmare still awaits, make no mistake.

Nuts and idiots joining Mother Nature’s already ample ranks of ignition sources – including bizarre ones like underground coal fires licking the surface – cannot be tolerated. There’s too much at stake this season. Police are warning there will be no looking the other way when a dummy lights off fireworks, flips a cigarette, neglects a campfire – or lights a campfire in some places.

God willing, the forecast for a “normal” monsoon and accompanying rainfall will bring Colorado back to Colorado. Otherwise, best get used to a full summer of this Los Angeles-like haze, and be very, very careful with anything that can cause a fire.

D.R.


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