The past two summers have brought Colorado several fires Ė not something thatís new to any of us. However, the past two summers have brought two of the worst fires in Colorado history Ė including the most destructive fire in Coloradoís history in the Black Forest Fire.
There are many questions that have arisen and will arise in the coming weeks and days. How did this fire start? Why did it get out of control so fast? What can be done to prevent fires like Black Forest in the future?
These questions are being posed this week just as fires are breaking out near the San Luis Valley. Air quality alerts have stricken the Valley week because of the West Fork Fire. So, now the fire season has officially hit the Valley.
We are watching these fires torch the earth amid the questions posed above. Itís no secret that Colorado suffers from draught and severe beetle kill in many forested areas. Yet, over the past few years, Colorado has been surprisingly weak on clearing beetle kill lumber. The state has taken measures to salvage some of the lumber and conduct some controlled burns. However, there are areas of the state that continue to be plagued by an overabundance of beetle kill lumber. Coupled with the continued dry weather, Colorado will continue to face a huge wild fire threat.
So, we have to ask: Why has there not been more action to clear beetle kill?
Anyone who spends time in the Sangre de Cristos or the San Juans knows that there is a ticking time bomb in our mountains. Itís only a matter of time before lightening ignites a fire or before some moron lights a fire that quickly spreads.
I thought last yearís fire season would have been an indicator to the state to get out and clear more dead lumber. As we are seeing again this year, not enough has been. We can do nothing about the continued drought, but we can lessen the risk of fire. Yet, it seems the state is only sitting on its thumbs hoping that more serious fires do not break out. Itís time for the state to act, to clean up the dead lumber, to reduce the chance of a wildfire.
If anything good can be said about this fire season, it comes in the form of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Not enough can be said about the dedication of the firefighters and the good people that volunteered in many ways.
If only the state could summons the same dedication in other ways.