Colorado Could Burn Up This Summer

April 13, 2012 at 3:32 PM 1 comment

I live in Boulder, Colorado and this scares the shit out of me:

After an early start to Colorado’s wildfire season, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is concerned that the Forest Service’s small, aging air tanker fleet isn’t capable of keeping civilians safe.

In a letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on Thursday, the senator wrote he “is unconvinced the USFS’s current air tanker fleet is prepared to adequately address an immense wildfire or even what is sure to be a long fire season.”

Drought, squirrelly winds and a pine beetle epidemic have left many parts of the West susceptible to wildfires. Firefighters have already sprung into action. In Colorado, a prescribed burn that unexpectedly reignited killed three residents near Conifer. More than 15,000 heat records fell nationwide in what was an especially dry and toasty March. With about 98 percent of Colorado in a drought, many experts warn this year has the potential to be the busiest fire season in a decade.

[...]

n a strategy statement sent to Congress in February, the Forest Service reported that it expects 10 of its 11 air tankers to be retired by 2021.

“We’ve been doing research on the effects of a changing climate to the vegetation on our nation’s forests for over two decades,” he told the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. “When it comes to fire, we’re definitely seeing much longer fire seasons in many parts of the country, another 60 or 70 days longer than what we used to experience.”

The post goes on with a copy of Sen. Udall’s letter to Tidwell.  See it here.

To give you an idea how close to home this hits for me, imagine having signs like this in your neighborhood which, unfortunately, I do:

Not only are the trees and grasses tinder dry already, in the middle of April, traditionally our wettest month, but we get high winds that sweep eastward out of the Rockies (my house is literally at the base of the Rocky Mountains).  It isn’t uncommon for those winds to gust to 100 mph.  So couple an idiot tourist who’s hiking in the foothills who drops a cigarette butt amidst dry everything, high winds and high temperatures, and my whole neighborhood of something like 2,000 homes goes up in flames.

Add to that the pitiful number of ancient tankers (11 for the whole freakin’ country) and one doesn’t feel particularly relaxed.  And when I say ancient, I mean ancient.  Look at what happened to a tanker in California in 2007:

So, gee, if we weren’t spending a billion dollars a week in Afghanistan or more than the rest of the world combined on our military in general, we might be able to afford to bring our Forest Service firefighting capabilities from the 1950’s into the 21st century.

Our priorities are so screwed up.

 

 

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. JC for pennies  |  April 13, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Well then, why doesn’t the gummint declare a “war” on wildfires. This movement should spread, well, like wildfire thruout the west (I live in Calif.), then we spend large numbers of $$ on this war just like on the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on drunk drivers, the war on smokers, etc. Rememeber the “war on poverty”? Yeah, we lost that war, also. But we could at least make the effort, I agree. If the economy will just last a l-i-t-t-l-e longer—-!

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