Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appears to have painted himself into a corner with his promise to select a woman — and apparently from the candidates on his shortlist, an African-American woman — to be his running mate. While it is just the latest example of his party’s tribalism in which externals, such as race and gender are preferred over actual ideas, in the end, it will make no difference because the Democratic Party looks to have been taken over by hardcore leftists. Whoever he selects must appeal to and appease the Bernie Sanders crowd.
If press reports are to be believed, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, appears to be among the leading candidates. Unlike Biden, she presents well on TV with her appealing smile and soothing voice.
While all of Biden’s potential running mates have baggage, Bass has been trying to unpack hers when it comes to Cuba. Bass had visited Cuba multiple times in the 1970s when she and Hollywood celebrities were also praising the “literacy” and health care programs of the communist dictatorship.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Bass was reminded of her statement on the death in 2016 of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in which she said: “the passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.”
Bass said that her perspective on Cuba “developed over time” and that she now understands the Castro government “was a brutal regime.” Bass said she spoke with colleagues from Florida (which has a large Cuban and anti-Castro population in Miami). She said they raised concerns about her comments and that she “would not do that again, for sure.” She professes not to be a socialist or a communist.
Is Bass unaware of the history of communism, especially in the former Soviet Union and China where human rights are practiced as human wrongs and people are jailed or executed for speaking ill of, or resisting, the regime? Why did it take her so long to become “educated” about Cuba when information about the cruel and corrupt dictatorship was available to anyone with open eyes? Did she think communism was of a different brand when practiced in Havana than in Moscow or Beijing?
On other issues, Bass also seems consistently in line with the party’s Sanders wing. According to justfacts.votesmart.org, Bass voted for the euphemistically named George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill would prohibit police officers from, among other things, “intentionally pointing of a firearm at an individual.” What about the intentional pointing of a firearm by a criminal at a police officer? The bill has nothing to say about that. Criminals will love it.
Bass is also in line with Democrats who want to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, something that would require a liberal Supreme Court to deny specific language in the Constitution preserving the District as a federal city. That could be overcome if Democrats win back all three branches of government and attempt to pack the court with more liberal judges, as Franklin Roosevelt tried, but failed to do. Granting DC (and possibly Puerto Rico) statehood would guarantee Democratic Party dominance of government, possibly for decades to come, which is their intent.
If there are any real journalists left, at least one of them should ask Bass about these subjects. Unfortunately, modern journalism has mostly become another arm of the Democratic Party and part of the anti-Trump juggernaut, I am not optimistic any will even make the attempt.
Eagle will share its CARES Act funding with local nonprofits providing COVID-19 relief
EAGLE — After reimbursing its direct expenses, the town of Eagle now wants to help out local organizations with their COVID-19 response efforts.
Earlier this month, local governments divvied up $4.7 million in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The Eagle Town Council reviewed the town’s past and projected COVID-19 expenses and then chose to disburse a portion of its $99,188 in CARES funding directly to nonprofit organizations in the community. As a result, the town now has $46,000 in immediate funding available to assist nonprofit organizations that serve Eagle residents.
“There are probably dozens of needy organizations out there,” said Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed. “Hopefully we can direct the money to people who are doing work for COVID relief.”
Even before they opened up funding to the community, Turnipseed noted the town had already figured out one novel way to address COVID-19 needs. Eagle purchased a pig at the Eagle County Junior Livestock Sale and then donated the meat to The Community Market. And, while the food bank program is an obvious candidate for COVID-19 relief dollars, Turnipseed said the Town Council opted to reach out to learn about other community needs.
“It was obviously a conscious decision on our part,” said Turnipseed. “At least it gives us some information about groups that are out there.”
But the there is a quickly approaching deadline for groups to ask for help.
The deadline to request aid from the town of Eagle is The deadline for this letter is Aug. 19. To apply for a portion of the available funding, community organizations are asked to follow these steps:
Write a one-page letter to the town of Eagle describing your organization, the role you play in service to residents of the community, and the specifics of the request. Please describe how the requested funds will be used to help those impacted by COVID-19. Please include the following documentation along with your letter:
Verification of 501c(3) status
2019 financial statement, P/L or other format showing your financial position
A summary of your organizational structure
Email the request letter to Bill Shrum, assistant to the town manager at email@example.com.
At its meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25, the Eagle Town Council will review the requests and make funding decisions.
Funding must be distributed to the non-profit recipients no later than September 1, 2020. Recipients will be contacted, and appropriate documentation must be provided to the town prior to disbursement.
“The town of Eagle greatly appreciates the community support provided by nonprofit organizations that serve the residents of Eagle and have been crucial resources during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shrum in a written statement. “The town of Eagle is committed to the residents of Eagle, the business community, and to assisting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For more information about Eagle’s efforts, operations changes, and resources for navigating the impacts of COVID-19, go online to www.townofeagle.org/covid-19.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife have leftover big-game hunting licenses on sale
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s big-game, over-the-counter licenses went on sale Thursday, Aug. 6. The licenses are unlimited in number and restricted to certain units, seasons and manners of take.
Leftover big-game licenses are also now on sale. Leftover licenses are the remaining limited licenses available after the primary and secondary draws are completed.
There is usually heated discussion about exactly how many peaks above 14,000 feet Colorado has. But evaluating the peaks with a topographic standard rather than emotion yields 53 that have at least 300 feet of topographic prominence, which is how high the peak rises above its surroundings.
This excludes local peaks North Maroon Peak and Conundrum Peak in the Elk Mountains. North Maroon is often considered an “official” fourteener thanks in part to its iconic stature and the fact that the traverse over to Maroon Peak is Class 5 difficulty, which is technical rock climbing. Conundrum is a sub-summit of Castle Peak with 200 feet of topographic prominence.
There are three more peaks over 14,000 feet tall that are described on the website 14ers.com but are not ranked as fourteeners. One is Mount Cameron, a sub-summit of Mount Lincoln in the Mosquito Range. Peak baggers can summit Lincoln, Bross, Democrat and Cameron in a day.
The last two are in the San Juan Mountains. El Diente is a sub-summit 3/4 miles from Mount Wilson with 239 feet topographic prominence. The traverse between the two peaks is Class 4 — which means handholds and footholds are required for upward or downward progress. The difficulty of the traverse qualifies Diente as a fourteener in its own right to some, according to Wikipedia.
The other is North Eolus, a sub-summit just 44 feet lower than Mount Eolus with 179 feet of topographic prominence.
Anyone interested in tackling their first (or final) fourteener can get a wealth of information from 14ers.com.
The site has topo maps with routes marked; routes described with distance, elevation gain, difficulty and risk ratings, and photos; trailhead information; and user-generated reports on trail conditions.
Sean Van Horn recently completed Nolan’s 14, 14 fourteeners over 92.8 miles with 43,225 feet of climbing in 45 hours, 57 minutes. He has some advice for those planning to hike their first fourteener.
“Start early to avoid thunderstorms, but look at the weather, don’t just say, ‘I’ll start early and I’ll be fine no matter what.’ Storms can come in at 9 a.m. … Look at the Doppler [radar] as well to get as specific as you can, and be prepared to bail if storms come in,” he said.
The manager of Independence Run and Hike, Van Horn also stressed the importance of proper footwear.
“Invest in some good shoes that have some good traction and support so that you’ll have a better, more comfortable, safer time out there,” he said.
And be sure to pack extra clothes for changing conditions and storms.
“Bring some clothes. It can be 80 degrees down at the trailhead and with wind chill it can be 30 degrees up on top,” he said.
Proper nutrition and hydration is very important.
“Take care of yourself; make sure you’re eating food and drinking and using some electrolytes with your water. Don’t just drink gallons of water without any salt, that can mess with your body as well,” he said.
And start with one of the easier routes.
“Start with some that are a little more straightforward, easy routes like heading up Elbert or Shavano, that are close to where we are. There are some easier ones on the Front Range like Gray’s and Torreys,” he said.
It’s critical for saving airline industry jobs and supporting the broader economy that relies on travel, the Denver-based CEO said.
“I think it’s just really important that people start to understand what’s unsafe and flying on an airplane, that’s not unsafe,” Biffle said in an interview with The Denver Post. “It’s actually one of the safest things you can do outside your home. I think as soon as that starts getting out, we’ll start getting some traffic back.”
Biffle highlighted Frontier’s COVID-19 safety protocols. Planes are regularly fogged with disinfectant and masks are mandatory onboard. Frontier mandates temperature checks for all passengers, the only U.S. airline that has taken that step, Biffle said. All of the airline’s jets are outfitted with HEPA filters to pull contaminants out of the air.
On May 3, the airline stopped all in-flight food and beverage service so passengers won’t have an excuse to take their masks off, according to spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz. Bottles of water are available for purchase.
Coronavirus complicated efforts to lower Colorado’s health care prices. But one idea is still moving forward.
Back in February — six months and untold mental eons ago — the biggest issue in health care in Colorado was lowering its price.
Hospitals were raking in record profits, state lawmakers were champing at the bit to do something about it and ambitious plans to rewrite chunks of the health care playbook dominated the legislature’s early days.
Like with many best-laid plans, the coronavirus pandemic has largely upended those efforts — most of the proposals met quiet ends at the Capitol and hospitals’ profits have turned into what they claim will be multibillion-dollar losses this year. But supporters of an innovative new model for negotiating prices with hospitals continue to push forward and say they have been making important gains in recent months — advances they say might have been even larger if not for the pandemic.
“It’s a heavy lift,” said Robert Smith, the executive director of the Colorado Business Group on Health. “We’ve absolutely been slowed down by the COVID crisis.”
Smith has been working to set up a so-called health care purchasing alliance, a group that brings employers and individuals together — basically, the purchasers of health care services — and uses their collective leverage to negotiate better deals from both health care providers and insurance companies.
On the front lines: How firefighters combat wildfires
Wildfires can be enigmatic.
Fire officials are well aware of the variables that dictate how a wildfire will behave: the moisture levels in fuel sources that have been adapting to changes in the climate, the direction and speed of the wind, and the severity of slopes along the landscape.
But even the slightest change in conditions can alter a fire’s path and intensity, creating an entirely new outlook on the situation as emergency workers rush to gather intelligence and adjust their suppression tactics.
For some firefighters, the dance serves as a reminder that what they’re up against is an uncompromising and devastating force of nature, and it isn’t to be underestimated.
“It’s an interesting thing — and it only comes with experience — to see Mother Nature rage like that and to be comfortable with it,” Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District Capt. Derek “Goose” Goossen said. “We’ll try to predict what she’s going to do today. But really, she’s going to do whatever she wants. Nine times out of 10, she’s going to say, ‘Screw you, humans.’
“We’ll look at the tactics we use and the strategies we can try and see what kind of effect we can have on a force like wildfire. It’s intriguing to see that struggle between humans and Mother Nature, to watch the arm wrestle that happens and see who comes out on top. Sometimes we win. Usually we lose.”
Defending the wildland-urban interface
Modern developments in firefighting tactics and technologies are providing officials a fighting chance. And when you’re battling Mother Nature, it helps to be proactive.
Experts say that some of the best tools they have against wildfires are preventative: educating the public along the wildland-urban interface about best practices in fire safety and creating fire breaks in sensitive areas.
“There’s an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Jeff Berino, former chief at Summit Fire & EMS and a fire investigator. “The more we can do to raise the awareness and prevent the fire from happening in the first place is a win. Common sense is a lot of that, but when you look at what’s causing wildfires, it’s mostly humans.”
Berino pointed to programs offered in Summit County — like the chipping program, home defensible space audits and wildfire preparedness classes offered by the fire districts — as necessary efforts to help get community members ready for potential fires.
Hazardous fuels reduction projects also have become more frequent over recent years, essentially serving to break up the continuity of fuel sources in an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires in the wildland-urban interface and provide firefighters with safer environments to engage fires.
Locally, officials have lauded projects like the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts near the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods in 2011 — when 300- to 500-foot-wide fire breaks were cut — that helped to protect about $1 billion in property during the 2018 Buffalo Mountain Fire.
Other efforts are ongoing. At the end of March, the Forest Service approved the Peak 7 Hazardous Fuels Reduction project, which will treat about 522 acres of forested land near Breckenridge, creating 400- to 600-foot-wide community protection zones in areas identified as high risk.
“I think it’s critical,” said Ross Wilmore, wildland fire specialist with the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District. “Defensible space measures really give firefighters a chance. It gives them some time and space to work with. … If you’ve got a homeowner that has done defensible space work on their property, and we’ve done a little fuels reduction on the national forest land, that’s the best of both worlds. We have room to work on public land, and what’s behind us is a tactically advantageous situation.”
Deciding on a response
Officials think of wildfires on a scale of 1-5 based on a number of variables including size, fuel type, complexity and values at risk.
Type 1 fires are the most severe, often requiring hundreds or even thousands of personnel on scene for firefighting operations and logistics work to manage shelter, water, food and more. A Type 5 fire likely could be managed by a single engine within a day. Berino said most wildfires in the Summit County area are Types 4 or 5.
Once a plume of smoke hits the skyline, emergency workers immediately go to work assessing the blaze. A decision could be made to manage or try to steer the fire if it’s determined to be in a safe place. But fires that threaten human lives, structures and other valuable assets like watersheds draw an immediate suppression response.
The first conversations take place around intelligence and tactics. If a wildfire has shown signs of growing, officials will call in a multimission aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art infrared and color sensors, which can provide a detailed perimeter of the blaze and point out hidden hot spots.
“They’ll be orbiting at 20,000 feet above the fire, and I’ve had one radio me for a quarter-sized hot spot,” Goossen said. “I couldn’t see anything hot; I was sticking my fingers in the ground to look for it. The (multimission aircraft) told me to walk 20 feet to the north, turn left and walk 5 feet. … Sure enough, there was a little spot fire starting underneath some bushes.”
Depending on the reconnaissance gathered, more air support could be called in to try to stymie the wildfire’s growth quickly. Generally, firefighters can engage flame lengths of 3 to 4 feet or up to about 12 feet with fire engines.
The main goal in wildfire suppression is to place containment lines around the entire fire, essentially putting it in a box where surrounding fuel sources have been removed or otherwise treated. Firefighters compare their maps to the images they’re receiving from the multimission aircraft and carefully choose where they’re going to try to create containment lines and battle the blaze. Of course, given the dynamic nature of wildfires, there’s always a Plan B and C.
“There’s a decision tree on where we’re going to try and stop the fire,” Berino said. “And there are always backup plans in case it escapes our box. There’s a critical-thinking aspect of this where we have to stay ahead of what the fire is going to do, to think about where it’s going to be in two days, three days or a week.”
Once a fire hits the crown, or if it’s already bearing down on a residential area, firefighters look to the sky for help.
It could take hours for additional firefighters to arrive from other jurisdictions or for local responders to hike into the forest and position themselves in the right areas. But aircraft can start to head off the fire in a matter of minutes, dropping slurry to serve as the first containment lines.
“We can get aircraft to drop slurry on the fire and start that box long before we can get the dozens or hundreds of firefighters we need on the ground,” Berino said. “We may have crews coming from the Front Range, Grand Junction or Glenwood, and that’s going to take several hours. We can get aircraft here in the 20- to 30-minute range.”
Slurry is a mixture of water and inorganic compounds that form a clay-like substance that inhibits combustion. Berino said single-engine air tankers can drop between 400 and 600 gallons of slurry, while DC-10s and the 747 Supertanker responding to major fires can dump about 12,000 to 20,000 gallons at a time.
Responding helicopters — again given a type rating — dump buckets of water directly onto hot spots in the fire to help cool things down.
With a multimission aircraft flying high overhead and tankers and helicopters skimming the treetops, there’s also an air attack supervisor circling in the sky providing directions to aircraft and advising firefighters on the ground of upcoming slurry drops.
The aircraft’s efforts are mirrored on the ground below, where officials and firefighters have been running through checklists in preparation for engaging the fire.
Lookouts have been put in place with binoculars to keep an eye on other firefighters and report changes in fire behavior. Communications have been opened between fire crews and aircraft. Escape routes have been planned, and safety zones have been designated.
Firefighters also will have to make a decision to engage a fire directly or indirectly. An indirect attack essentially means officials are choosing to engage the fire on their own terms, allowing it to burn to a fire break, road or some advantageous natural feature where they can set up engines and water lines to help douse the flames.
In a more direct attack, firefighters most frequently will use a technique called anchor, flank and pinch. The idea is to find an anchor point near the back of the fire — called the heel — that would be difficult to burn over, like a cliff, road or wetland. From there, it’s all about building containment lines along the fire’s sides, always trying to keep downhill with the wind at their backs.
“We’ll construct hand lines on one or both of the flanks, and eventually we’ll try to steer those hand lines together to pinch the head of the fire and put it out,” Goossen said. “… That’s really hard to do in heavy timber, because you can’t outflank a fire with that much energy, and it could be starting spot fires. Usually, we’ll back way off and try to construct a really bolstered line days ahead of the fire.”
In ideal conditions, firefighters can bring in bulldozers to clear out trees and other vegetation quickly, but in forest terrain, it’s often up to hand crews carrying chain saws to do the dirty work.
In regard to spot fires — ignitions outside the perimeter of the main fire caused by flying embers — firefighters are constantly on the lookout. Crews will pump water along the containment line, through an engine or something more portable, and pretreat the opposite side of the line to prevent spot fires and keep the main blaze from jumping the line. There also are regular patrols of firefighters walking back and forth in a grid to catch any ignitions.
“People think firefighters are always staring at the flames,” Goossen said. “But we always have our backs to the fire. We’re on the line looking for spot fires. We know the main fire is coming to us, and we don’t care. We care about embers flying over our heads. … If you don’t spot them, all your efforts are for nothing.”
If other tactics fail, officials can always fight fire with fire.
In a process called back-burning, firefighters will find an area within the inner edge of the fire line and light their own fires using drip torches to try to expend fuel sources before the wildfire reaches the area. In more severe cases, firefighters will even perform heli-torch operations, dropping small pingpong-ball-like incendiary devices to start more widespread fires below.
“If you’ve got a big crown fire where you can’t really get near it and retardant isn’t going to make an impact, what you tend to do is back off to a distance and find an area that’s comprised of less intensely burning fuels,” Wilmore said. “It really does two things: burning out the fuel between you and the control line you’re constructing, and allowing firefighters to work in a fuel type they can manage in terms of heat and fire intensity.”
Once a fire has been contained and starts to lay down, slowly burning down whatever remaining fuel sources still have flames, firefighters will do some final mopping up of the area, taking to grid formations again to methodically check for remaining hot spots to put out.
And while mechanical or handmade containment lines, slurry drops and back-burning are all effective in their own right, the tactics tend to work best together.
“We generally try to get a combination of air, engines and hand crews,” Berino said. “Very seldom is it one thing but all three in concert together: the aircraft to knock it out of the trees and to slow down the head of the fire, the engines providing water to protect structures and hit hot spots, and firefighters on the ground with hand tools and hose lines.”
The human element
For the firefighters working on a wildfire, the experience can be physically and mentally draining.
One of the core values of wildland firefighters is physical fitness, requiring someone to be able to climb a mountain with 70 or more pounds of gear without sacrificing situational awareness at the top.
The living conditions also are less than ideal.
“It’s an unhealthy, hot, dirty environment,” Goossen said. “There are 13 known carcinogens in wood smoke, and we don’t use any breathing apparatus on wildfires. It’s very common to get smoke headaches for days on end if you’re on the front line. And you get black boogers. …
“Sometimes you get good meals, and sometimes you’re just getting MREs just to keep you going. It’s typical for us to work 16-hour days. You go to sleep tired and wake up at 6 in the morning and do it all over again for 14 days straight.”
Others expressed that wildfires were a source of stress for themselves and their families.
“When I was younger, it was more fun than it becomes as you get older,” Summit Fire & EMS engineer Frank Towers said. “I have a wife and a couple young boys. That definitely takes a toll on you. You’re not there to help with home life. It’s not just a sacrifice I’m making, but my wife is having to work double time to pick up the slack. Knowing that can definitely wear on you. You miss your family when you’re out there.”
Some even warned of long-term mental health effects.
“There’s a bond that you build among firefighters that’s based on shared experience, shared hardship, shared challenges,” Wilmore said. “Those bonds are very strong. But all that hardship and stress and fatigue comes at a cost. I think we’re beginning to understand that cost.
“There’s long-term mental health suffering that firefighters and other emergency workers go through, and we need to provide more support for people that in their fire careers see something that keeps them up at night or just experience the stress of going out to fires over the years and suffering small traumas over and over again. … This is a stressful job, and it does exact a toll on you.”
And of course, there’s always the risk of serious injury or death. In the United States alone, there were at least 160 wildland fire fatalities between 2008 and 2017 according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
“To those that say they’re never scared, baloney,” Berino said. “The key is staying ahead of the fire and having respect for what it can do. There are times when the hair on the back of your neck goes up. There are times when the fire is just marching to its own tune, and you have to just respect that. It’s not a time or place to be a hero. It’s just not.”
Editor’s note: This is part three of a four-part series about wildfires. Part four publishes Aug. 15.
Letter: Bikers beware on Vail Pass
Today I witnessed a semi tipped over, lying across the bike path going toward Vail Pass, a mile or two past the cul de sac where it runs right next to I-70 Eastbound. The accident happened just before I got there on my bike.
Fortunately, I did not begin my ride a few minutes earlier or I could have been part of this accident. How does something like this happen on a beautiful sunny day? I don’t believe any bikers were injured in the accident but I don’t know.
This is a plea to the town of Vail, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the Forest Service to make this bike path safer. Perhaps reroute the section that runs right next to I-70 or build a substantial concrete barrier between the bike path and the highway. This iconic ride up Vail Pass is special to so many of us, please make it safe.
Letter: Not a great time to close the lake
I’d first like to commend Avon for fostering a wonderful atmosphere in the park throughout this tenuous summer. The environment has been first-rate, whether for picnics, volleyball, paddleboards, flamingo floats, or social hour for dogs.
This weekend, however, I cannot help but feel for how many families are here for an end-of-summer getaway, finding the lake closed for an open water swimming championship. This seems an appropriate moment to remind that, with all due respect to both the Nottingham family and to the rigors of swimming, it is a pond. Parents can relax in the sun or shade as children stretch their boundaries and freedoms a bit. Now, plan B for them likely involves begrudging movements beneath the oppressive sun. Surely the lake can host paddle races and maybe even sunglass and keychain hunts. But doing so during school break seems to me some unfortunate fine print on the back of the town”s summer calling card.
Letter: Why, Avon Town Council?
Why is the Avon Town Council just rubber-stamping anything and everything that East West Development wants to do? Are councilmembers in East West’s pockets? Getting kickbacks? They certainly are not representing the best interests of Avon residents or, for that matter, Avon visitors.
Who wants to live or vacation in an overdeveloped, overcrowded town where there is little open space or beauty left to enjoy? The Eagle River? Becoming inaccessible and invisible through downtown Avon and beyond. Every little postage stamp of land near the river is being covered with more monstrous buildings that block out the mountain views and river access. Move the Eagle River walkway, so popular with walkers, joggers, cyclists, and families with children and dogs? Why don’t you just push us all into the river?
In the 10 years that my husband and I have owned a condo in the Lodge at Brookside, the traffic and noise level on Highway 6 has increased dramatically, as has the number of people using the Eagle River walkway and Nottingham Lake, and The Riverfront development has encroached on the serenity and charm of the Eagle River walkway. Avon is being strangled and ruined by overdevelopment and overcrowding.